The Covered Mirror


The Slave in the Magic Mirror

The one who knows all and knows nothing

The one who looks like me


She says…


“Do not do these things”

At times, I will listen to her sage advice

But others, I will not

I am stubborn and I am weak

I will cover the mirror in silk or in sackcloth

Lest she see me in my failing

I do the two things I have been advised against

On one side of the glass I sift the ashes

The finished things

On the other, I juggle the fire

The dangerously possible


I winnow the cinders and dust

I gather the splintered fragments

I try to arrange the broken

My hands are tattered in the attempt

The salt and the iron flow

But I am defeated again

I take up the jagged things

I score my flesh

With each painful carved note

I try to rewrite the stanzas

Compose a different song

To replace the one that was so mournful

In the end I cannot

Have I not been warned?

I take my battered red sheets

I hide in my prompter’s box alone

Buried beneath the darkened stage


Sometimes, on the other side of the glass

I disdain her other caution

I play with dangerous flames

I turn away and crave the different things

I gamble with that which is precious

Sit at the table and ask for another hand

I stare at the infinite possibilities

I fantasize about turning the crisp, smooth cards over

To find something new and beautiful

The Kings and the Jacks and the Aces

A fresh game of chance

But I hear the muted voices

I think of the inestimable treasures

That will not be found here

No matter what lies on the painted faces still held tantalizingly close

I cash in my chips and I run

Quickstep on my frightened gazelle feet

My handful of special wealth clasped carefully to me

Back to my room

To the covered mirror

I am shamed and despairing

I have failed again

I know better, I have long known better

Yet I am human

I stumble



I still carry Hope

Hope says


“Be better someday”


-Jessie Henry








Chemical Burns



The moments collected

In oddly matched containers

Chipped Mason jars, heavily figured candy dishes, mixing bowls, test tubes and delicate crystal flutes

They sit on dusty shelves

In empty halls

Where no one ever goes

Each one is filled with a liquid

Sickly yellows, electric blue-whites, cloudy greens, pulsing angry oranges, night-shrouded blacks and crystal clears that smell faintly of salt

Sometimes…when things happen

You open the doors to the deserted palace

You follow your own sooty tracks through the echoing corridors

You find yourself stopping somewhere

To look at a vessel

You don’t want to  pick it up but you do

You want to turn and run through the endless galleries, out into the sunlight

But you don’t

You gently swirl the terrible mixture inside

And you are there again

Ensnared in those dark memories

The weight presses about you and you are breathless

Tremors rise in you and the container slips from your boneless hands

That fragile glass decanter, filled to the brim with incendiary liquid

Shatters on the floor and you are so ANGRY

Asking yourself again why these things happened

A terrible blaze ignites from the ghastly elixir

To engulf you again

But you are not consumed

You never are

Only scorched and blackened

You take a step and the ashes gradually flake away

One after the other until you stand outside the doors

You chain them shut again

And you think SOMEDAY, perhaps you can go back inside

Drain each and every bottle

Dust the shelves

Sweep the floors and open the shuttered windows again

To feel the light of the sun



-Jessie Henry



*Note:  Years ago, in reading one of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Agent Pendergast novels, I came across the concept of the Memory Palace.  A Memory Palace is a technique used to boost memory recall by the use of a spatial symbol (i.e. making a journey in your mind through a real or imagined place to help you retrieve specific facts).  At some point, the thought bubbled up in my head that instead of that, what if a Memory Palace was a place where one stored away the sad and frightening memories that we wished we could be free of.  Unfortunately, these things are still held within us, so no matter how much we wish we could move on or forget, we may still find ourselves sleepwalking back to those terrible times.  We scold ourselves later: “Why can’t you just get over this?”  “Grow up and live your life!”  “Yes, that was terrible and sad, but life goes on.”  We trudge away from that haunted place and promise ourselves that we will never go back.

I think we have to give ourselves the grace to understand that if we have a hard time healing from certain things, it is only because we have hearts and emotions.  A machine could easily move on from any setback, but is that what we want to be?    Stop feeling bad about yourself because sometimes that baggage comes back to you.  Every day, rise up and put one foot in front of the other.  Those things will lose their grip on you.  You survived and you are stronger than anything in those dark containers of memory, I promise.