Tricks with MIRRORS

Tricks with Mirrors


It’s no coincidence

this is a used

furniture warehouse.

I enter with you

and become a mirror.


are the perfect lovers,

that’s it, carry me up the stairs

by the edges, don’t drop me,

that would be bad luck,

throw me on the bed

reflecting side up,

fall into me,

it will be your own

mouth you hit, firm and glassy,

your own eyes you find you

are up against closed closed


There is more to a mirror

than you looking at

your full-length body

flawless but reversed,

there is more than this dead blue

oblong eye turned outwards to you.

Think about the frame.

The frame is carved, it is important,

it exists, it does not reflect you,

it does not recede and recede, it has limits

and reflections of its own.

There’s a nail in the back

to hang it with; there are several nails,

think about the nails,

pay attention to the nail

marks in the wood,

they are important too.


Don’t assume it is passive

or easy, this clarity

with which I give you yourself.

Consider what restraint it

takes: breath withheld, no anger

or joy disturbing the surface

of the ice.

You are suspended in me

beautiful and frozen, I

preserve you, in me you are safe.

It is not a trick either,

it is a craft:

mirrors are crafty.


I wanted to stop this,

this life flattened against the wall,

mute and devoid of colour,

built of pure light,

this life of vision only, split

and remote, a lucid impasse.

I confess: this is not a mirror,

it is a door

I am trapped behind.

I wanted you to see me here,

say the releasing word, whatever

that may be, open the wall.

Instead you stand in front of me

combing your hair.


You don’t like these metaphors.

All right:

Perhaps I am not a mirror.

Perhaps I am a pool.

Think about pools.

Margaret Atwood

Someone once said to me, “There is no big picture, only your reality.” This concept took me a very long time to grasp. The fact that my reality differs from yours and that both are valid and true was very difficult for me to understand. I have often blurred the boundaries of separate realities – it is very easy for me to step into the shoes of another. However, the path to true connection lies in understanding this concept- entering another person’s reality and being there, while knowing that it is a strange land, different from yours.

My journey in understanding what it really means to connect with someone began in the death throes of my marriage. My ex-husband and I reached a point where we could listen to each other and comprehend the other. We are good friends now. It has taken nearly eleven years, but he is quite often my go-to person for advice. He can still make me laugh more than most people.

Margaret Atwood’s poem Tricks with Mirrors is one of my all-time favourite poems. It is a perfect description of an unconscious relationship. We are all mirrors of each other. I project on to you my bad and good qualities. You reflect them back at me. I think it is only when you realise this that you can even begin to start to have a true connection. One without mirrors.

I have had some very strange connections in my life. Unfortunately, these usually play out in connections of the romantic variety. I once described my love life (post-divorce) as A Series of Unfortunate Events. I guess that this is true for most people. Because why we fall in love is the largest, most terrifying mirror for us. Maybe it is, as Atwood writes, not a mirror but a pool. That pool can be quite dark and spooky at times. There they be monsters. But we know that in that pool lies our best chance of joy. A connection which is honest and true, loving and kind is what we all seek, always, I think.

I spent a long time seeking this connection in all the wrong places with all the wrong people. I have met some crafty mirrors and, if I am honest, I have been an even craftier mirror myself.  I am now at a place where I am in awe of the bravery, honesty, resilience and tenacity that it takes to be in an intimate relationship and stay there. I don’t know how this will play out in my life and I’m okay with that. There is enough joy in life to sustain me. I no longer am lonely. Of course, there is absolutely, a want and need to be loved and love and I hope that I experience that one day. I am through with being just a mirror though or having someone be a mirror for me. I want to understand the lay of the land in which I am invited to explore. That would be a privilege and an honour and an adventure.

There is something very cool about liking your own company. I have started taking myself on adventures, in memory of my beloved father. He always used to buy us ice creams (behind my mother’s back) and recently, I have been having an ice cream in a cone for him and with him when I take myself off for an adventure. The thing is – I no longer feel alone. I think I have finally got something. As he lay dying, my father asked me what I believed in and I answered, “I don’t believe connections between people ever die”. This has proved true for me, in life and death. Once you truly understand another person’s reality, it expands your own. They become a part of you. They never die.