Michael Lally


At certain times in my life I was a handsome man.
At other times, a very goofy looking man,
a plain looking man, or an odd looking man.

I was at times an Irish-looking man
and a “white”-looking man. I often looked younger
but at times passed for older.

When asked by the director of an indie movie
to play a coked-up suicidal rabbi in it, I said
“With this Irish mug?” And he said, “The rabbi

who taught me for my Bar Mitzvah looked
exactly like you.” Several times I passed for
“black” in situations, especially in the then

legally segregated South, where pale “black” folks
sometimes passed for “white” and sometimes
passed for “black” and identity seemed to be

dependent on something like mass delusion.
I’ve been the same weight, give or take a few
pounds, since I was fifteen, except for a few

years around age fifty where I worked out
with a trainer and bulked up with muscles
that made me feel like somebody else so

I went back to my old self and weight, though
as I grew older that weight seemed to move
around, like from my shoulders and chest to

my belly. These days as I move into my
late seventies, I seem to have acquired the
looks of a generic “old white man” indistinguishable

from other old “white” men, at least to those
who don’t fit into that category, though those
of us who do can see the more subtle differences.

I could be part Jewish, or Italian, or Brazilian,
or African, or indigenous or trans or queer or
lots of things you might not think I could be

by my appearance. But what seems to matter
most to many I encounter when out in public
is that I appear to be a generic “old white man”

and from that there seems to come conclusions
I might disagree with but recognize there’s no
point in doing so, minds have been made up

in most cases, and any words or gestures or
styles, or ways I can look, will not change those
conclusions. As happens to so many others.

Michael Lally’s award-winning poetry has been denounced on the floor of Congress (My Life called “pornography” in the first attempt to defund the National Endowment for the Arts c.1980) and praised in the Congressional Record (The South Orange Sonnets c. 1974), his 30th book is Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017 (7 Stories Press).