James Longenbach

Bathroom Mirror
December 9, 2012 Longenbach James

Bathroom Mirror


Often, when dazzled by sunlight,

You cannot see the thing before your eyes.


This is an experience unknown to mirrors.

Turn on the lights, they suffer no distress.

What lies before them is perceived with greater clarity.


When your hand reaches for the soap,

The mirror reaches for the soap.

When you inspect

Your face, it broods.


Are you free from ambition?

Scared by the thought of death?

Are you any kinder than you used to be,

Any better looking?

Have you learned, like other people, how to have fun at a party?


A chocolate savarin,

Then little glasses of sauternes.

I’d left the table to pee.


Had you permitted it, earth,

I would have loved you

Like a little bird

That picks up crumbs.




James Longenbach is the author most recently of The Iron Key (Norton, 2010); a prose book, The Virtues of Poetry, will be published by Graywolf next spring.  He is the Joseph Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester.