by Emma Aylor
The mirror itself was scarcely larger than an eye.
It was found, as so much is, as trash, buried,
one of the small metals
women in Roman Gaul would offer to love,
or to the moon for love. In the emptied park
near my apartment, I read
of kinds of devotion that ask reciprocity:
As the god gives something, you give something back.
Back there, it’s been months
since I touched a person.
Look: I’m far away, writing this,
I don’t live anymore alone in the northwest city
where there’s no chance to see the whole gray sky.
I said get me to flat, let me roll
the cramped spine arid, out.
It’s a year ago now.
I could say I’ve returned.
Buried reliquary in the ground, sunlight
can’t reach—what reflection, then, could I ask?
It’s impossible, but I could imagine:
votive mirrors like moons
glint in an earth thick as night. They reflect not light
but a history of being held and known. Of these objects,
Sobin uses the verb disclose.
He says the mirrors divulged.
Not so like looking from my old window
to a street
swept of people, or only masked people, nothing
like the pieces that offered—out
of the depths of the devotee’s gaze—
a form of response. A little eye. A face. Flame.
Should the poem be a mirror; should it hand
an image back; should it blacken, tarnish, or crack
the eye looking at itself for something else—already
I knew, this year ago, it shows me nothing of you.
Note: The italicized text is quoted from Gustaf Sobin’s “Votive Mirrors: A Reflection,” in Luminous Debris: Reflecting on Vestige in Provence and Languedoc (University of California Press, 1999).