Looking Glass / by Stillwater Magazine

By Damen MacDougall

It will happen that I will be looking in the mirror

and catch a glance of my aunt Judy in the set

of my eyes, subtle flare of my nostril, the shape

of my lips. I search then, at my neck, imagining

that I feel the scarf

tighten

 

I think of her often, see her reflected in the cast

of my face when I am alone, in my vanity, its

winged mirrors swinging, displaying my throat

in triple, three views of the bruise circling my neck

as if I am the one

who’s died

 

How shrunken she seemed sitting in the trailer

we used to share. Evicted, her home emptied

of its possessions like some cancerous lung

expelling what carcinogens it can in a last heave

before it deflates

entirely

 

A material life that dematerialized. I catch

myself clutching onto the physical as she did.

Her hands in death are my own, atrophied

in a grip on all things that time will wrench from me,

fingers swollen, palms

calloused

 

But these digits are nimble enough when fidgeting

over my features, when raking my face, dexterous

when it comes time to flick the ash from my cigarette

like she used to do. I think, not for the first time,

that I am killing myself

as she did

 

I feel I am as stained through as I was at eight,

walking the road behind her house, holding

the hem of my shirt in front of me, pregnant

with blackberries, bulging, the cotton of my shirt

bled through with purple

and red

 

It’s an irreverent kind of stain, not shying away

from its permanency. Blithe like the pain

of a tattoo, that sensation you could live in

forever, the sweet ache grazing your skin

reminding you of what feelings

you are capable

 

She’d stopped taking her pills, the week before

it happened. Deliberate. I feel her decisions

manifest in my own fears, and in those things

I should fear, but don’t. I think I understand her,

though I wish that I

didn’t