The Mirror, The Storyteller (A Poetry Prompt)

My morning mirror is a reflective pool that ripples these days, but only around the corners of my eyes, or in the creases that frame my smile. Its color saturation has begun to fade, too, begun to gray in certain areas near my temples. It’s a shape-shifter, an illusionist that seems to show the face of my older kin. More than those things, though, my mirror is storyteller.

Life weathers us, and our mirrors are reminders. I first noticed my graying hair in the barber’s chair on College Avenue after the birth of my third son. As he clipped, a few tips fell like snow on the black cape, and my barber remarked, “Three boys and the coming hair color of maturity and wisdom. What more could a guy ask for?”

The lines in my forehead have deepened, too. The mirror reminds me of my youngest son’s medical condition, the “worry lines” that tell of early morning prayer and daylong concern. I remember poor cafeteria food, the care of visiting friends, the skillful hands of good doctors who worked minor miracles. These wrinkles, my mirror says, are battle scars.

In the mornings, I lather my cheeks and chin with shaving cream. In the mirror I see where my smile has worn ruts around my lips; it tells me that I’ve been blessed with four silly sons, a beautiful wife, and friends who bring too much laughter and just enough wine for good dinner parties. My mirror shares stories of a mostly merry life.

Some read mirrors like a mathematical equation — reflection equals face. My mirror reads more like a journal, a poem, or a short story. It reads like a collection of my times — some bad, but mostly good.

Poetry Prompt: When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Use the mirror as a poetic prompt, a way to share the stories of your life. Leave your poem in the comments below. Who knows, maybe we’ll share it with the world.


Tweetspeak’s Mirror, Mirror Poetry Prompt:

This month we’re considering the theme “Mirror, Mirror,” and we’ll be composing poems around the subject. How do you participate in this month’s poetry prompt?

1. Consider a mirror, whether a makeup mirror, a hand-held mirror, or your rear-view mirror. Listen to our monthly prompt-themed playlist. What images, emotions, metaphors, or allegories do they conjure?

2. Compose your own poem around the theme.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSMirror hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a Twitter user, or if you’d rather, leave your poem here in the comment box.

5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a poem to feature in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

There have been so many good mirror poems coming in this month. Who knew that the “Mirror, Mirror” prompt would have inspired such great work? Last week we considered mirages and mirrors, and the poems you submitted were fantastic.

Consider this poignant, introspective piece by ElanaLee:

Reflections on failure–
acne scars immortalized
in memory’s florescent light–
pock a dot-to-dot warning:
“Do Not Proceed.”
But might one forward step
fall through sweet air
to solid earth and show,
finally, the devil
trying to instigate
a drowning in a mirage?

The devil really is in the details, and she writes them well here. I loved the idea of falling through sweet air. Thanks, Elana.

Laurie Flanigan brought us a nice offering, describing the fogging-over of glass with such aggressive and specific detail that I read the lines over and over for nearly five minutes. Her use of assonance in this poem holds it tight, creates a work that literally rolls off the tongue. In “Mirage,” she writes:

My porthole image is lost
accosted by a wash of

filmy breath. I’m gauzed in
its milky-white web

until I tremble … ebbing
in the breeze, and I can see

a peek of what’s beneath.

Thank you for sharing this with us Laurie!

And then there is Nance’s offering, which combined a wonderful poem with a double exposure mirage-like photograph. Consider her poem “Linger”:

my daughter
my mirage
i must linger
at a distance
to see her
my reflection
in her time
and not
in mine

Thank you for the rest of you who participated last week. It is a privilege to see your work take shape on the screen.

Photo by  Nanegyei, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines


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Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In June we’re exploring the poetry theme Mirror, Mirror.


  1. says

    (Seth, this is not a poem about a mirror as storyteller, but about stories as mirrors. Anyway, hope you don’t mind me flipping your prompt a little.)

    Anger Management

    Once, at a ski-town cabin, I chopped wood.
    I put the log over a wide tree stump and swung
    an axe for the first time. That was before
    I had read any Annie Dillard, so I didn’t know
    I should aim for the stump, should swing past
    the log I wanted to split. But I liked that it was hard
    work, I liked the transfer of energy from arms

    to axe to wood, and then I was too tired even to be
    angry. It’s like when I was a girl and my
    big sister’s boyfriend took us to the batting cages.
    When I swung hard but missed I felt heavy
    like a storm cloud that couldn’t let down
    its thunderload of rain. But when I heard
    the crack of the bat and felt that same energy
    transfer from my arms to the flying baseball,
    I understood why they called it a sweet spot.

    Sometimes when I am angry
    I want to go to the batting cages
    or the chopping block at that cabin,
    but never
    when I am the baseball
    or the log to be split.

    • Richard Maxson says

      You are so correct; there is nothing like chopping wood to relieve tension (except maybe planing wood, which is a different approach to calm). I love the way you ended this: sometimes we’re the ax, sometimes we’re the log.

  2. Donna says

    “Never trust a mirror” she groans
    to no one in particular.
    Words flow like gravel,
    clawing inner flesh
    on their way
    up from the ugly
    and through
    the windpipe and past the lips
    (“cursed lips”).

    “Never. Trust. A Mirror.”
    Her younger eyes scalded
    by the bowl of ice
    half eaten.

    “A mirror will never tell you the truth”
    She whispers, to avoid
    the choking
    vibration of her voice rising.

    Every breach
    of cursed lips
    A dare.

    “Men don’t love
    fat girls.”

  3. Richard Maxson says

    Oh childhood, what was us going
    away, going where? Where?
    ―Rainer Maria Rilke

    One-thousand-and-one is still a long time
    to count, but I’m far past ready-or-not.
    Night is falling, my boy; the cicadas chime
    and everyone is home free or caught.

    Your house is empty, nothing there remains,
    but an old, unfamiliar toy. I looked
    under the stairs, where we played when it rained,
    only my shadow climbed the worn treads, crooked,

    extending away from me into dark corners,
    a mysterious and tortuous maze.
    I hardly knew you, my little sojourner,
    daydreamer; how can I remember your ways?

    Time to come home, child. Ally-ally oxen free!
    You won! No one can find you, not even me.

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