Weekly photo challenge: Self-portrait

From oh-so-long ago.

I thought I posted this photo once before on this blog, but I couldn’t find it. Also couldn’t find this poem. It was published in The Providence Journal a few years ago in the newspaper’s Sunday poetry column.

I don’t take many photos of myself, so I looked back in the “old photos” folder and pulled out this one, which inspired the poem below. 1967 must have been a very mild winter because this is Iowa in late January, and we were more often snowed in on my birthday.

That dilapidated shed in the background was our playhouse. The tree line behind me was Brady’s place, which was right off the highway. We lived on the gravel road. It was hard to ride your bike on, turned muddy and sloppy in the spring, and had to be plowed out in the winter.

The sweatshirt was maroon. I was in the fifth grade at Holy Name. I’m sure I got markers for Christmas or an art set because I liked to draw. I played the clarinet and piano (both badly). I had my head in a book almost all the time. I was third of six kids. One gone. One still to come.


Found a Photo from Forty Years Ago

A girl stands outside in patchy snow.

Bird-bone arms pinned to sides,

hair like straw, cat-eye glasses,

Today’s her birthday.

There will be angel food cake

speckled with colors,

ten candles sinking in butter cream icing.

Behind her,

an exposed oak tree scratches blackboard sky,

a pig shed serves as a playhouse,

a mile of frozen earth borders a ditch

and two-lane blacktop.

The birthday girl smirks: Ten, one-zero.

She is a wizard in training,

charming endless acres of constancy

into forest, castle, jungle,

offering to the gods, a great journey.

Ten! Ten! Ten!

She thinks her adventure’s just begun.

She skips into the farmhouse,

neglecting a slipper,

trailing a few magic beans.

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10 thoughts on “Weekly photo challenge: Self-portrait

  1. I can see you in the self portrait of words along with the photo.

    The photo made me smile the moment I saw it… I recognize the arms at sides pose !

    Thank you for following my blog. This is a new love, blogging, tho I have kept a journal since I was around 12 and got a pink journal with a key for my birthday from my mother’s oldest sister. Sharing the thoughts is what is new to me.

    Peace,
    Siggi in Downeast Maine

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comments! It is nice to put it out there and see who will bite, kind of like fishing, I guess. Although I didn’t have enough patience for it. 🙂

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