House of Mirrors

                                                      The thrill was to find myself lost, turned
                                                      completely around in a maze of mirrors

                                                      until I could not step forward without running
                                                      into myself, could not turn one way or the other

                                                      without a distortion of who I was rising
                                                      in a swirl of grinning teeth and bulbous eyes.

                                                      I was not Alice stepping through her looking-glass
                                                      into a world of red queens and white knights.

                                                      I was a boy, safe in the belief I would leave
                                                      these illusions behind as soon as I felt my way

                                                      past each one, touching the convex or concave
                                                      surfaces one after the other until I again found

                                                      open air and solid earth. What I could not
                                                      have imagined is that I would discover,

                                                      when I stepped from the House of Mirrors,
                                                      a lifetime of lovers and friends filling the grounds

                                                      of the carnival and spilling into the future,
                                                      all of them poised like mannequins—

                                                      those who would betray me and those I would betray—
                                                      and a wife and children and brothers and sisters

                                                      and there, in the very front of the crowd,
                                                      a mother and father. And as I stepped

                                                      among them, already no longer a boy, I touched
                                                      each face, felt the curve of each forehead, traced

                                                      the line of each lip, believing as I did that this
                                                      was the real world, that these were real people,

                                                      not distorted versions of myself,
                                                      but flesh and bone, hair and tooth,

                                                      finger and toenail, so why, I wondered,
                                                      did their faces waver and shimmer as I passed,

                                                      and why did my hand seem at times to move
                                                      right through them, as if they were images

                                                      on a screen of mist, perhaps even reflections,
                                                      mirrors revealing a world hidden from me,

                                                      a world somewhere behind my wide-open eyes?


This poem appears in House of Mirrors
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