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?
I see my mother, too—in fact, I’ve sometimes walked past storefront windows and thought she was suddenly walking next to me, only to find that it’s my own reflection.
It’s disturbing on several levels.
But this poem is beautiful.
I see my father when I look into the mirror. Odd, but true.
On the last day,
Her September blue eyes, gone pale,
Were like shells of robins scattered on a lawn of gray hair and sundrenched skin.
Drained of color and of life, they followed me; perhaps I blocked her way to the other side.
Say hello to dad, I said, I have missed him too.
A lapsed Catholic girl, she died on Easter Sunday.
Okay so I’m not a poet; the above 62 words, reduced from a 1200 word project for a memoir class, shows what a lousy poet I am. Hey, I tried.
What do I see in a mirror?
Every morning when I gaze into the glass above my bathroom sink I make sure the eyes of my mother are still blue, because on her last day, hers were not.
That last sentence should be made into a poem.
My mother was here for a week and just left last night. She commented several times (she makes every comment several times, the old sweetie) that there were no mirrors in the house except the ones in the bathroom. I told her I don’t like mirrors and left it at that. The further truth is that I don’t like to see myself from the outside. I don’t know why.
I see the worn-down version of someone I once knew.
I also see my third sister when I’m stressed out/tired. I think it’s the way I tighten my mouth. The Clause genes are strong. (Please, no Santa Clause jokes, we’re Jewish.)
in case any of your readers are wondering, Dr Cougar is the second… Once mistaken for your twin. Granted, it was dark, and the guy who said it was drunk. But, still.