THE BEHAVIOR OF MIRRORS IN THE SUMMER GARDENS.
After Julio Cortazar
When you set up a mirror on the western side of your garden,
it runs forward. When you set one up on the eastern side
of the garden, it runs backwards. You may discover the point
at which the mirror runs behind, but finding the mirror works
correctly is no guarantee, as mirrors are subject to the defects
of their kind, and may not act the way they truly want to.
So that your husband, a professor on sabbatical from the local
university, looking in the mirror, having not shaven in seven
weeks, sees himself wrapped in hospital sheets, dead of
tuberculosis at age 76--this was on the eastern side of the garden,
and at the same time a seven-foot mirror you had forgotten
on the western side of your garden (it had been tucked along
the koi pond and bougainvillea) reflected your husband as a boy
in cutoff jeans driving a busted pencil down his plaster cast,
then your husband in an aloe grove pulling a string of bees
from his teeth. And that night, in the bedroom beside him,
watching his chest rise and fall, the sliver of the moon
drop its ashes on the summer garden, there was no one
but yourself in the mirrors below: 18 years old, bedded down
in a pickup on a length of plywood inside an antique frame,
where all around you dogs slink from the marshes as you left
the marshes for the city. Jefferson County, Louisiana, 1976.