“that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude” Wordsworth, “The Daffodils”

Like a cascade of silken water,
my hair falls over the pool
of the dressing table mirror.
I search my own face,
wondering what I’d hoped to find.

Into the green thicket of the past,
I slip inside a fairy tale.
How my grandmother
pointed to the dying light
twinkling in the trees,
showing me the fairies
I believed in because I wanted to.

The first witch was my mother,
sowing dissension, hiding deceit,
plotting ways to set her children
against each other.
It was more than a game,
it was a compulsion.

We four sisters and a brother
consumed her poisoned love.
Every year she grew thinner,
teetering on high heels,
flapping her wings like a crow,
her back curved like a question mark.

Her life force fed a fire of trash—
igniting conflicts
passed down to children
like religious obligations.

I shriveled up and dug in,
a hard seed of resistance.
I never could relax my guard—
when I tried, I came to grief—
better not to be noticed,
best of all to leave.

I used to dream of the world
at the back of a mirror,
as if I could step into it, another Alice,
and the glass would part to take me in,
like dry water. There would be
an interior like a Dutch painting,
the light falling in one direction,
a woman sitting quietly, waiting.
She would look up and nod
when I passed, and let me go.