Ode on My? Image [Not] in the Mirror
Praise for the mirror’s angular edges
or oval of trim, or frame of gilt;
its multiplicity of shapes and sizes.
Praise to the bathroom mirror, useless in fog;
and the tiny handbag circle, to the rescue
of eye-smudged sorrows and lipstick blues;
and the hand-carved full-length an uncle made,
I in awkward haste shattered, and no one saved
from a fragmented, dangerous fate.
On every wall, these works of art,
these frames of magic nothingness:
for who has ever seen a mirror? You have not,
not once. No one can ever see what sort of thing
it is in itself: it has no color, no topography
or texture. Meaningless, like a macaw’s chatter;
empty, like a poet reading someone else’s words.
Yet a landscape in a mirror, or a face,
becomes a mysterious wonderland
with hues and depths that, outside its glass,
would be fantastic, would have to be imaginary.
In the glass, who knows?
How do I know how I really look—
whether I have hazel eyes, or bleached blond hair,
sorrow or contentment in my expression unreflected—
since I only ever see myself at a distance, in external glass?
I have never seen my face, neither with my own eyes,
nor by a long hard gaze at me with anybody else’s.
How do I know the mirror doubles truth?
How do I know I have seen anything?
In the mirror or without, a solitary sensation?
Try to see, try to know you feel:
concentrate the energy of consciousness
to register the messages your senses send.
I once stood in the midst of snow-covered trees,
forcing myself to listen to the silence flakes of gray made
against the same-gray sky, to see that paper-colored air
while I was there. And could not.
Noises, colors, cold, and dark:
none of these are in me, none of them are mine.
The flavor is not in the wine, nor on my tongue,
nor any bodied place. The act of sensing
slips a gap between body and mind.
I cannot feel at any moment, in any now—
for when is now? It is the same as never.
All I can do is memorize.
The harder I try to see, the less I can.