Huge Mirrors

This is an old apartment and therefore the mirrors are huge and ornate. They go with the high ornate ceilings. There’s one such mirror in the living room and another in the bedroom. Both have intricately carved borders and a leafy crest on top. In the living room these have been painted over in white, but in the bedroom it’s still the original gilt rococo. Both mirrors sit on top of fireplaces and are as big as tombs. I think the descriptive term for them is French Regency Baroque.

The mirror in the bathroom is pretty big too, and again somewhat ornate. And there are two other mirrors here as well. Not bad for a small, one-bedroom flat.

The problem is I’ve never been too fond of mirrors. I rarely look into them, and only then to make sure my hair isn’t sticking up, or there’s no toothpaste showing, or when I’m fine-trimming the beard, to make sure I’ve missed no section. Oh, there are exceptional other occasions. Once when I got a red eye on a transatlantic flight, for example, I kept checking on the progress of the red’s disappearance. Or when I fell on gravel and got an ugly friction wound on my forehead, I had to first deal with applying the dressing, then keep an eye on how that healing was coming along. Very slowly, as it happened.

As for gazing into the mirror to see if  I look OK enough to go out into the world, or — perish the thought — if I look attractive today, the answer is no way! Que sera, sera, as the song goes.

Tiny children love the mirror and it’s very pleasant to watch them gazing into it. Dogs don’t understand it and bark fiercely at the rival dog that’s their reflection. I once gave a woman a full-length mirror as an Xmas present. It wasn’t ornate or gilded, and it got smashed soon afterwards, and seven years of bad luck followed.

But if   I want to look at myself in the mirror regularly or for lengthy periods there’s plenty opportunity for it in this apartment. I could even stand naked and see everything. And as Monsieur Baudelaire reminds us, according to the immortal principles of 1789, everyone has equal rights; therefore I have the right to behold myself with pleasure or distaste. It is between me and my conscience.

More Poems by Matthew Sweeney