American Life in Poetry: Column 799

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

When I look in a mirror, I try to compose my face so that it is at its best, but it’s a face that beyond my bathroom gets supplanted by all the more homely faces I carry out into the world. John Thornberg is a Minnesota poet, but here’s a poem of his that reflects upon all of us everywhere.

Stolen Glances

Every time I turn to peer
at my reflection in the mirror,

a cruel bargain comes in play:
the glass takes off another day

from my expected living span.
It’s vanity’s fair payment plan.

Each time I look I pay, alas.
I see already how the glass

has laced its silver in my hair,
my youth was stolen unaware.

The real me just fades away,
glance by glance, day by day,

until too late I’ll turn to see
the mirror has stolen off with me!

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by John Thornberg, “Stolen Glances.” Poem reprinted by permission of John Thornberg. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.