My mirror’s nature is mutable,
its function changes with
the length of the day's shadows.
In the morning it is a mother
with a checklist for the day:
face shaved,
teeth brushed,
shirt tucked in (like a badly made bed).
It tells me, “You are ready to set out
into the careless, brutal world.”
In the evening it is a trusted
counselor, dispensing advice
for the night:
“Yes” to this shirt,
“No” to that haircut,
“Yes, you may catch someone’s eye.”
(My mirror isn’t afraid to lie.)
But oh, that 3:00 A.M.
mirror is the mirror of
unvarnished truth, of
hard and harsh honesty.
My flesh is collapsing like
Venezuela’s  economy.  My
joints ache like the Tin Man’s,
and my face is cracked like
an old pie crust. “I am
a troll now,” I think.
A troll.
Back in the 80s,
when AIDS was the great
unsolved mystery, and it
seemed A Flock of Seagulls
would be a major band,
a troll is the name I used
for the old men who roosted at
the bar and cackled at each other
like grackles on a telephone wire.
Yes, my 3:00 A.M. mirror
is the teller of savage truths.
But here is another truth.
The eyes are still the eyes
of my youth. The old hopes,
the old longings, the old
defiance is still there.
Yes, I am a troll.
I am a troll and
I shall linger under
bridges, tossing
riddles up at the club-bound
smooth-faced youths
and cackling like a grackle
at the puzzlement in their faces,
as I eat the Billy Goats Gruff.
Michael Gerleman is a teacher in the Rio Grande Valley.

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