Czeslaw Milosz in one of his last poems quotes Julia Hartwig on the subject of mirrors:
A mirror awaiting the reflection of a human face, so
uncertain, as always, of its image.
He then avails his thoughts on the same subject to the reader:
The mirror awaits a face: mine, hers, his, of us
divided into men and women, old people and children.
And all of that is we, that is I in the plural,
always uncertain of my reflection in the mirror’s well,
Leaning as a child over the well’s casing
And there, in the deep, a tiny and not quite familiar face.
And it is precisely this uncertainty, of what I am, that connects me
to the next person before the mirror.
To compose a mirror, one must back a pane of glass with some kind of metal, like silver or aluminum. But the term also implies the act of reflecting light. And as both poets above infer, mirrors as humans create them come with the expectation of human faces and bodies within them.
If we define an object by its purpose and not just as the sum of its parts, then do we attempt to impose human need on to reality and redefine the world as if it is a satellite of us? Or is reality truly defined by need? Does the world grow greater and more purposeful as needs emerge and evolve?
I ponder these question from within a hotel room, from a chair I do not own, next to a bed I’ve slept in but never will again. I am here though the greater part of me stays fixed to my home even when my physical presence wanders far away. Perhaps an understanding of life and its meaning will always elude us. Because too many parts of ourselves scatter within it and will never be fully in sync with one another.
We can only see one image
in a mirror. One answer
to one question.
Beyond that moment and that gaze
nothing important or necessary
exists outside its lines.
Light does not entwine with
any other light.
While warmth passes with a touch.
I never considered even as a child imposing myself upon the world, for I defined the world as everything around me. Like a window can seem like a wall, I possessed nothing so much as I flirted with its mechanisms. I fell in love with perspective: the knowledge of the distant.
I will return home eventually. Only death prevents it. The rain will not, though now it keeps me behind glass. The trees jitter underneath it. I am anxious too. Yet it’s not that I am doubtful.
It’s that I know myself too well.