—in memory of Jim Jacobs
You died on Wednesday. On Friday
I’m hauled by limousine to be photographed
for a magazine feature, Charles Street
near Varick, a garbagey smell to the air.
March 25 and warm as May! “My object,”
the photographer explains, “is an utterly
natural image.” His five assistants, all male,
move like dancers in the semi-dark.
For years you’d kept your dying a secret.
The illness . . . its dread name. Chemotherapy
and blood transfusions and the rest. Sparing
us, one might say cheating us of premature sorrow.
Thirty minutes were required to make up my face.
Pain doesn’t sweat at any pore, nor
does the meager soul reveal itself.
Layered in paste, paint, rouge . . . I’m safe.
“Look into the lens,” the photographer says
patiently, repeatedly, “—look at me.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
From The Time Traveler
Image of camera by Maddie Smith
I'm a Reference Librarian at the University of San Francisco's Gleeson Library, and I run the Joyce Carol Oates web site, Celestial Timepiece.