It’s been a while since I’ve had a poem-off. The rules are as follows: Sarah W. posts a long thoughtful ramble on a poet, reproducing poems that are in the common domain. Then I get all self-righteous about contemporary poetry, and slap-dash off a post on a more recent poet inspired by Sarah’s choice.
Today’s poem is inspired by proximity, by which I mean I have two poetry books next to my computer right now. This is sort of exciting because it means that I’ve been reading poetry in hopes of writing poetry. And I’ve been writing poetry for the first time in a long while.
But who cares about all that? Here is a poem that is not inspired by Paul Verlaine, but that is relevant to my life (since I haven’t left my pregnant wife and gotten jailed for my gay love affair recently).
The Mirror of Matsuyama
“Daughter, this I give you before I die. When you are lonely, take out this mirror, I will be with you always” —from a Japanese folktale
Mother, what trick of light
brings you back—your face rising to the surface?
is it my need that imprisons you behind
the cold glass? When you lay still,
the flowered quilt no longer warm with your body,
I didn’t believe your promise.
and even the pauses between my breath
would remind me that you are not here.
But remembering your words, I held
your mirror before me.
you looked back, your fingers stretched
to meet mine. Between us, I could feel
only the glass. The brown centers of your eyes
returned my stare.
Mother, how do you see me?
Enclosed within your reflection, you can’t answer
what I ask—how your teacup knows
the shape of my hands, the smooth rim—
the bow of my lips. With every stroke
of my brush, why do I imagine the long length
of your hair?
Each time we meet, we press
closer together, as if you could make me whole.
(Sharon Hashimoto, The Crane Wife)
(Sorry about the double spacing, WordPress is not made for poets.)
Who do you see in the mirror?