“Charlie Chaplin & Me” by Prartho Sereno

Prartho Sereno


Legend has it that Charlie Chaplin placed third
in a Charlie Chaplin Look-Alike Contest. Now
that I’ve been threatened suit for stealing a stranger’s 
image for my author photo, I know how he feels.
When we met with an arbiter (it got that far),
she pointed to the leg in the photo and said, Look 
at the bulge of that calf—that’s not your calf.
Look at the flounce of those side-curls, she said. 
That’s not the way your hair goes—it’s mine
I’m embarrassed to admit how unsettling
it was. I found myself defensive, coming up 
with details about the day my daughter snapped it:
On a walk by the lake, under an old madrone
No, she said with a certainty I couldn’t match. 
This was taken at the bus stop on College Ave—
See the dappled shadow of oak leaves on my face? 
I took a good look at my challenger and had to admit
she was better at being me than me—floppier hat, rimmed
with profusions of bright blooms; periwinkle blue
of her blouse rhymed perfectly to her eyes. 
And those widening pupils that tunneled down 
like the black holes I’ve seen at the centers 
of galaxies. I had to hold fast to my chair 
to keep from sliding in. 

from Rattle #81, Fall 2023


Prartho Sereno: “I’ve been writing poems since I discovered they existed in fifth grade, but the nudge that sent me deeper was reading a few of my own at a memorial in India. The silence that followed drank me in, as if I’d been swallowed by a whale. I decided to take my place around the fires with Jonah and Geppetto, my now closest kin.” (web)

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