Covering the Mirrors

After a funeral, they were covered with black cloth,
some draped with shawls like a scalloped valance.
Leftover sewing scraps, wool, linen, synthetic,
anything to shroud the odd-shaped mirrors,
though sometimes a corner was exposed like a woman
whose ankle peeks forbidden from under a long skirt.

A mourner must shun vanity during shiva, focusing inward
but as a child I wondered if this were to avoid ghosts,
for don’t the dead take their time leaving?
One final check on the family.
I’m of a generation where grandparents disappeared,
great aunts with European accents,
rarely an explanation provided to us children.

My mother died much too young.
With a baby in arms I couldn’t bear to fling
that dark cloth over the glass.
After all she had come back from the dead so often,
even the doctors could not explain it.
Every time I looked in a mirror my mother gazed back.
I could never tell if she were trying to tell me something
or to take the baby with her.

Carol V. Davis is the author of Between Storms (2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Her poetry has been read on NPR, Radio Russia and at the Library of Congress. She was a Fulbright scholar at the Jewish University in St. Petersburg, Russia.
tags: Poetry, Poetry & Fiction   
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