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Some Reflections

by David Wagoner

Most animals can’t,
but gorillas and chimpanzees,
indignantly at first,
then both surprised and amazed,
          and then very shyly,
          can approach a full-length mirror
and spend just as much time
as seems available
before turning away
          to the other necessities
          of confinement. Elephants
          need to pass by only once
those fragments of themselves
to be sedately shocked,
to be turned for another look,
          to remain standing there
          enormously interested
          for a moment, but will go on
to more important matters
and food for thought. Ravens
and porpoises, African gray
          and yellow-naped Amazon
          parrots can all look
          in mirrors and know at once
that isn’t a near neighbor,
a rival or relative
or enemy gawking back,
          but themselves, there, all set
          to recapitulate gestures,
          or any old poses or faces.
They think it over once
or twice and get over it,
unlike some I could mention.


David Wagoner has published eighteen books of poems, most recently A Map of the Night (University of Illinois Press, 2008). Copper Canyon Press will publish his nineteenth, After the Point of No Return, in 2012. He has also published ten novels, one of which, The Escape Artist, was made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. (4/2012)

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