The Magic Mirror Poem

The Magic Mirror Poem

I was standing in front of The Magic Mirror
by Jackson Pollock in the Menil in late September.
I was looking at a woman looking in the mirror—

abstracted, but with a feathered headdress.
She was made of oil, granular filler, and glass
fragments brushstroked across the canvas

in 1941, the year my parents turned fourteen
and started “dating.” The War was on,
and black stormclouds loomed on the horizon.

I have imagined it all in slow motion—
their two bodies coming together as one
body exploding in rage into seeds and rain.

I was standing in front of The Magic Mirror.
I was looking at a woman looking in the mirror.
I was walking through the skin of the mirror

into the watery burial grounds of childhood.
I felt the strokes—black, purple, yellow, red—
raining down upon me, somehow freed

from the canvas—thick-skinned, light-filled—
and suddenly I was summoning all the wounded
animals inside me, totems of childhood,

and letting them go one by one—the mockingbird
of grief, the nasty crow, the long-beaked
hawk floating past a picture window flooded

with rain, heading for the Northeast Coast.
Oh let the wind release me from the past
wing by wing, bird by bird, ghost by ghost.

I was standing in front of The Magic Mirror.
I was looking at a woman looking in the mirror.
I was walking through the skin of the mirror

into the unexpected country of childhood.
I watched my body dispersed and reunited
somewhere else, transformed, transfigured.

Edward Hirsch
first published in Five Points, vol. III, no. 2, Winter 1999
also from Lay Back the Darkness

The Magic Mirror Poem

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