Published on Academy of American Poets (

Self-Portrait at 36 w/ David

Barnegat Light, New Jersey—April 4, 2015

Because looking at myself w/ out you beside me is unnatural
& though the light is all wrong—your camera slung & up

the light feels right to me, warm & soft, your chest pressed
towards my back, both our heads angling towards the dock,

boat slips on the bay—all the scallops secure in the sea still,
their bone-less bodies soft. & our own getting softer each day.

Sometimes the mirror makes our features fun-house style
& we’re way more old age than the teen age we most times

or the slight of shutter promises supple & smooth, where edge
& ravine & straight up wrinkle have arrived & settled in

like vulnerable house guests we don’t have the heart to kick
How comfortable they’ve become all over our fine faces

& my neck—how they’ve become familiar w/ our privacy. How
we’ve begun to cradle them. Stitch & loom. In the photograph

there we are—chins tilted towards one another, mouths closed

& turned up. A type of satisfaction dead in this middle we’re
    both in.



Copyright © 2015 by Ellen Hagan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“There is something both jarring and seductive about the aging process—a thrill to be gathering years and moments and history (and hopefully wisdom), but too a railing against the media’s constant perception of youth and how to hang onto it. Writing has forever been a balm against all that keeps me awake at night. I look forward to writing the poems that will surely harness all the years to come.”
Ellen Hagan


Ellen Hagan

Ellen Hagan is the author of Hemisphere (TriQuarterly Books, 2015). The recipient of a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, she is the director of the poetry program at the DreamYard Project in New York City. 

Date Published: 2015-09-18

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