I Stood before the Mirror

I stood before the mirror this morning
studying my chin’s newest collapse.
Two more grooves
inside the old familiars,
parentheses doubled for emphasis.
A sunburst of creases radiate from my lower lip,
as though drawn into being by an invisible purse string.

I tug my cheeks smooth.
Ah, yes . . . that’s the way I looked yesterday.
Or perhaps it was the day before.
Does it matter?
These new grooves are only a surprise
because inside my face,
inside me,
they don’t exist.

Standing here, though, before the truth-telling mirror,
I am reminded of another time,
another mirror,
another face—
also mine.
Many miles away my son lay dying.
We all knew except,
Control of his body slipping away,
comprehension, too.
Visions we could not share galloping through his brain.
We watched him, son, husband, father leaving,
all of us watching.
We had been so certain he had come to stay.
And during those watching days,
during those months that stretched into years,
I rose each morning,
stood before the mirror
and saw that in the blessed dark
my face had

It didn’t matter particularly,
that fallen face.
More a curiosity than a concern.
Watching your son die,
even from a great distance,
teaches you to care little about such things.
When you go out into the world there is so much you cannot say.
Your face is only doing its best to speak for you.

But still I stood then,
toothbrush in hand,
studying the grieving mother who studied me,
the collapse of flesh almost a comfort.
A substitute for the tears,
so nearly vanquished by

when even grief lives far away,
as though all this happened in another lifetime,
to another mother,
I find strange comfort in this meticulously outlined chin.
The comfort
that comes with knowing
that death
will rescue us all.

This will probably be the opening piece for the memoir I’ve been talking about, a memoir that will now be primarily in prose. The title for the whole is one I’m returning to: When Even Grief Lives Far Away.

32 thoughts on “I Stood before the Mirror

  1. juliewilliamsauthor

    An exquisite window into the memoir you are writing! The particulars of your experience, expressed in the way only poetry can, resonates and opens up the reader for what will come. As someone who goes back and forth between poetry and prose in my own writing, I am deeply interested in your process and enjoying everything you share here. I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

    1. Marion Bauer Post author

      Thank you, Julie. My confidence in the process grows, even as I stumble along, and hearing encouragement from folks like you helps enormously.

  2. Karen Henry Clark

    Goodness, Marion. I found this blog entry on the right day, indeed. When my husband and I were trying to adopt our daughter, we faced endless questions that most parents never encounter when children come to them in the typical way. I remember saying to a social worker that I knew being a mother would teach me about life’s important adventures in ways I couldn’t even imagine until I loved the tiny heart of my baby who was on the other side of the world. Now that she’s a teenager dealing with the darkness of resentful girls, I see how deeply her broken heart collapses mine as I look at myself in the mirror. I adore your beautiful verses. Than you.

    1. Marion Bauer Post author

      Oh, Karen. How I feel for you on your parenting journey. I have come to believe that bringing a child into our family, by birth or adoption, is the bravest thing most of us ever do. It’s good for the continuation of the human race that we don’t know just how brave we’re going to have to be before we’re done.

  3. Anna Marie Black

    What poetic language, dear Marion! was what I felt as I read the opening lines as they first appeared on the page…and yes, it was about grieving, not about getting old–how eloquent. But Marion, the poetry was just the outer shell, no matter how delicately crafted, of what you must have experienced. I am so glad you are writing the memoir in prose (your forte) because I am waiting to discover (whatever you choose to reveal to us) what must lie so deep within you about that experience. Be well.

    1. Marion Bauer Post author

      Thanks, Anna Marie. I remember your questioning my doing it in verse earlier, and what you say here tells me precisely why. Yes, you’re right. There is much more to say. I’m still gathering the courage to do the saying. But your encouragement helps.

  4. sheryl Scarborough

    Oh Marion — this is breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly honest. Thank you.

  5. Yvonne Pearson

    It’s a beautiful poem, Marion, and a lovely beginning for a memoir. I will look forward to reading it when you have decided it’s ready.

  6. Adrienne

    There were so many of us who loved him. Now, from my almost 50 year old perspective, I know he was the first person I felt something akin to love for. Hugs and love Marion xo

  7. Janet Fox

    Wow, Marion. How gorgeous. How heartbreaking. How it reminded me of my own grief and what it felt like to look in the mirror at that time.

  8. Carleen M. Tjader

    This is beautiful…heartbreaking, but beautiful.
    Your words, Marion, give such precise form for your life’s experiences. And your readers reap those benefits.
    I surely do. Thank you.

    1. Marion Dane Bauer Post author

      Thank you, Catherine. I remember years ago hearing Madeleine L’Engle say that the key to making your readers cry is to withhold your own tears when you are writing. That if you make yourself cry, you won’t touch your readers so deeply.

  9. louisehawes

    Honest, as always. Brave, ditto. Thank you for this, Marion, and for writing a book we all need.

  10. Caroline Starr Rose

    Wow. I’ve been so interested in your process and have forwarded your posts about changing mainstream and then changing again to a writing friend. Thank you for this honest glimpse of work — and of life.

    1. Marion Dane Bauer Post author

      Thank you, Caroline. I have written many pieces I struggled through but nothing as personally challenging as this one. Still not sure whether I’ll end up with a manuscript anyone else will want to read, but I’ve decided it’s what I need to do for me. And I’m glad to have other writers with me on the journey.


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