The Mirror

The Mirror

It arrived in the post, with no sender’s name or address

A bulky package that interrupted my afternoon’s rest

The Post-fellow beamed at me as I accepted it with grumpy demeanor,

Wrongly thinking that it might elicit him a pittance for his labor

 

After shooing him away with no further ceremony,

I began inspecting this unexpected endowment a tad warily

After all, since my return from the sanitarium (from what they called breakdown and I knew as mild stress)

All I ever received were bills, refusals of job applications and whining debtors’ duress

 

This seemed like none of those; smothered in profuse reams of bland, brown wrapping

Upon eviscerating which, I was further impeded by vast layers of cotton padding

With growing impatience, I ripped those wispy, insubstantial guardians away,

To finally gaze at my unearned prize; only to see my face, features in habitual disarray

 

‘Twas a mirror, of course, an oval-shaped, ever-hungry curator of reflection

I held it up quite effortlessly; it had a strange lightness that belied its description

Its frame was built of strange metal, rich yellow, yet neither brass nor gold

Defiantly bright, despite a chafed surface and weathered edges, that proclaimed it as very old

 

Etched within the frame and running around it, were intricately carved tiny faces

Of gargoyles, or some other grotesque creatures, certainly none with any social graces

Their tiny jaws hung agape, uneven teeth lay bare,

Beady red eyes buried deep within, yet with a disturbingly incisive stare

 

At the top was carved a fellow, much like the rest, but its head bigger and more detailed

Above its head lay tiny loops, through which, the mirror undoubtedly was to be nailed

Unlike the others though, this comely fellow’s tongue lolled out- on it carved arcane gibberish

And its lips were twisted into a self-satisfied grin, like a cat that has bagged a succulent fish

 

The glass held within this unsightly frame though, was of a nature immaculate,

Nary a smudge, stain or crack marring its all-seeing, sparkling plate

One moment capturing every minute detail of my face, with only honesty and no blame

The next, catching a stray beam of trespassing sunlight, rendering its visage aflame

 

I was intrigued indeed; by who might have sent me this rather unusual gift

But decided not to spend time fruitlessly musing over it

Instead I carried this narcissist’s delight over to my bed chamber

Where an unsightly damp patch on the wall much needed a presentable cover

 

As I hung it from a nail, I felt a sudden, sharp prick in my thumb

And looked at it to find a tiny cut, perhaps from the chief gargoyle’s very coarse tongue

I was salving the cut with my spit, when I noticed a single drop of my blood on the mirror’s face

A blooming red rose on its otherwise pristine barren surface

 

I was wiping the blemish off with my other thumb

When suddenly, I felt the glass flutter and undulate at my touch

And it was not just a feeling alone,

I thought I even saw its surface ripple, as if it were water and my thumb a pelted stone

 

It was a surreal, frightful moment; which snatched my breath away

But it was just a moment; for when I steeled myself to touch it once more

It was completely firm and solid this time, without the slightest of sway

I put it down to a momentary sleight of the declining light and my mind,

And went about unfolding the remainder of my languid, empty day

——————————————————————————————————–

 I came awake with a rush, when night was at its bleakest and blackest peak

Yanked out of some nightmare; details foggy but distinctly dire

I realized it was a persistent buzz, like a swarm of mating cicadas, which broke my uneasy sleep

Coupled with a soft but warm glow, like still-burning embers of a dying fire

 

Both, inexplicably, had their source in my newly acquired mirror

A realization that stirred within me fresh tendrils of fear

I approached it, with unsteady feet and mind still unclear

Wondering if perhaps I was still trapped within the nightmare

 

As I gazed into that buzzing, smoldering looking-glass

I can only imagine I fell into some kind of trance,

Had I not, I would likely have died of shock at what I saw

And this tale would not advance

 

For when I looked in that mirror, I saw my faces

No, not my face, but my faces;

An uncountable number of them, none that looked exactly like mine

But somehow in my head, I knew they were all innately my own,

Just as much as the one I wore since I was born

 

They were moving, all those faces

Whirring, spinning, like numbers in a fast slot machine

A bizarre procession of running images,

Pausing one by one within my reflected visage, just long enough to be seen

 

In a move both of reflex and revulsion, my hands leapt to feel my own birth face

Expecting its skin to also be morphing, shifting, like the one in the mirror

But it was transfixed in its familiar features, as still as still can be

And I instinctively knew then that the images in the mirror

Were of all the faces that lay inside of me

 

Hidden within each of us, there are several other people, you see

An everyman, a hero, a monster, a fighter, a lover and other motley characters, large and small

Some rise to our surface often, some rarely and some never at all

Unseen but active, although never at our beck and call

Driving our choices, actions, strength, disposition and more – in fact, shaping our very personality

 

Each has a face of its own, and these were the faces the mirror was showing me

Each a true reflection of everyone I had been, am and could possibly be

For our birth face is just a mask; for one of these inner faces to hide beneath

And we never know, which one – on any day – behind the mask chooses to be

 

These faces, my inner possibilities, the mirror was showing me

Beautiful faces, content faces, loving faces, tender faces, bold faces, assured faces, faces filled with glee;

Pained & bitter faces, jealous faces, angry faces, brooding faces, vengeful faces, faces with melancholy

All that was kind and good in me, all that was ugly and broken in me and much in between

 

As I gazed on, the faces were slowing down their revolution,

This slot machine was nearing its end run

And the mirror was talking to me, in my head

Telling me, I could make a choice here, forever influencing my life ahead

 

I could pick the face of the inner character that worked best for me,

The one I felt would always keep me happy and carefree

The mirror would then draw it to the fore, behind my birth mask for my life’s entirety,

Taking away all the other innumerable nuances that inhabited me

 

And forever more, through all life’s vagaries, that is who I would be

Defiantly happy in the face of the greatest hardship, heartbreak or other misery

Confidently handsome, broodingly sexy, audaciously bold, uncaringly cold; strutting brazenly

Any one of those strong inner people I could choose to be

Rid forever of sadness, guilt, weakness, fear, longing and any other character with infirmity

 

As the dial of faces slowed its spin further before me,

I focused hard, trying to isolate the face upon which to dwell

And just as I felt ready, to command it to stop on my chosen personality

The mirror fell…

 

Perhaps because the nails in the damp wall gave way

Or because the Universe wanted it that way,

I don’t know why, but the mirror fell

With all my faces, including the one I had chosen to take away

 

In blind panic – at seeing my life-changing prize slip away

I lunged forward, hoping to break its fall,

But I missed, and with great force, my head hit the wall

I dropped to the floor in a swoon,

But just before the darkness took me, I felt something inside me being sucked away

————————————————————————————————————

When I came to, I was groggy and I felt strangely empty and raw inside

The mirror lay shattered, like a broken promise, strewn across the floor at my side

Its outer frame was bent but intact; the gargoyles looking forlorn

But while its magic was gone, it hadn’t left alone

In departing, it had taken away from me far more than it had shown

 

For when I looked into other mirrors, any reflective surfaces or even water in a bowl

Where my face once was, there remained just an empty cowl

Vacant, featureless, a gaping pouch robbed of all substance and soul

Even though I could touch and feel my eyes, nose and other features like before,

In all my reflections, I saw no sign of them, or any hint of a face any more

 

Certainly, to me alone, my face was now invisible

For when I fearfully stepped out of the house, the crowds around behaved quite normal,

A tad disturbed by whatever expression I now wore, but not aghast at seeing a face no more

Clearly, I was the only victim and the only party to this loathsome travesty,

I looked whole to them, but I know longer knew who to be

 

Not only had the mirror left me without the character I wanted,

Out of all the ones within me it had shown

It had taken them all, even the damaged one I hitherto had worn;

Taken not just everything I could be, but also everything I ever was before

Leaving me just a mask without a face within, an empty husk without a core

 

That’s when I burst out into a high, keening sound – a wretched lament at this hideous irony,

That alarmed all the passer-bys, and had them call in the constabulary

 

And now, at this mirror- less infirmary,

When the Doctors ask me to laugh, I think I do

When they ask me to cry, I believe I try to

I try to do whatever they ask of me, searching in vain for my face in their instruments shiny

There are times when I think I should assert my own self, but I’m not sure how

Because in trying to snatch the best out of me, I’m left without any of me now

The End

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2 thoughts on “The Mirror

  1. Holy moly, Mr P. This is….very very unexpected and different from what I am used to from you. What a refreshing change. And…what writing.

    I was transfixed. I still am.

    Love, Miffalicious. [www.miffalicious.com]

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