époque press ezine
by Mark Mayes
You shave every day. You rarely look at the whole of your face in the mirror, just the section your blade is working on. It’s a habit, a habit other people want you to do.
After youth finally escapes beyond any imagined returning, you no longer care for the shape of your face, its fat and folds, it’s dry patches and pouches, and the gradual hanging nature of it. In truth, you avoid it looking back at you.
Except today. This Winter morning. When hail falls through dark, hitting the black window about the sink. When you’d rather be asleep, in dreams, impervious for a while.
And you have the foam in your hand. Lemony. You have warmed your skin with water, made it more supple, ready for the foam, ready for the blade. Water steams in the bowl.
And it’s not you you see. In the round mirror. It’s not your face. A trick of the light? No. The light never plays tricks, it does not care enough.
More than this. It’s his. The man who. The man who loved you when you were small. The one you’d obliterated, until now. At the beginning of age, a cusp on to slowdom, struggles over, the early kind. But. Nearly fifty years ago. He got away with it. Died peacefully, by all accounts. Respected. His face looms in the expanding mirror, wanting to burst from its confines. Billowing flesh – sheen of sweat above lip. The mole just there, where it always was. chewy. The kiss coming in. Triumphant. And the steel eyes, dull steel that stole your hands, your years.
Oh – don’t look again. Hide. Must shave. Cannot look. Cannot have it double.
You drop the Bic into the grey water. You let the water remove the soap. You towel. Face still rough. “Stubbly with goodness”, as a poem you once read would have it.
You don’t go in that day. No excuse is made. Your ex-wife calls. Something about the youngest. Doesn’t want college after all. Wants to be a roadie. You don’t care.
You sit in the lounge in the dark. You are tense, not lounging. The mirror has been banished.
Something might not happen.
When his tongue explored your back passage, it was pleasurable. This was the hardest thing. To forget the pleasure, before the pain. And the gifts. And you kept coming back. Like a flesh boomerang. Rights of passage – yours.
And if you let him, he is in every reflective surface now. The tv screen, the night windows, the bowl of a lamp, the sheen of a rubber plant. Little lovers. What he said. Called you precious. You knew love. Not lover. That came after.
Alone in the room, and with a hundred of him, watching, hoping you’ll feed him with your forgiving eyes, make it all right, for you both. Call it another thing. Call it experience.
They find you rocking. Lock had to be forced. You’ve made a mess, are in one. Must not reflect. Must not even look at the back of your own closed eyes.
Mirror Over Drawers
You were long when i was short,
in the empty room, empty of voices.
I dip up & catch my head
then rising face in your eye.
I see you seeing me,
am me suddenly,
not knowing the meaning there.
You reflect bed, curtain flowers, old light.
The drawers beneath your eye
are hiding places.
I remove from them
and test you - each time you win.
And young face rising stares
into rapid years flitting over skin,
many empty many full,
like your drawers that prize
dust and paper.
& when I search your record,
mirror, I see a floating fear on chubbiness
& eyes that do not wish
to be reflected -
that hold back for protection's sake
their own sad recordings.
I entered the party.
Everyone was there.
My mother and father were young again.
I stood near them.
They did not recognise me.
They passed right through me
into old-fashioned music and cigarette smoke.
Friends came and went:
backs were scratched, and backs were slapped,
and sometimes they were turned.
Some wore the masks they had always worn.
One or two slipped, revealing a pure glass countenance.
My brother and sister glided by on tiny wheels,
no hint of jealousy in their eyes.
I stood by the buffet table,
adjusting my expression to one more inviting.
Someone I had once loved
moved by the cocktail sausages and cheese straws.
Our eyes locked,
and years fell from her like drapery,
revealing the darling impossible now.
I stepped nearer, touched her hand,
and looked down into the face of my life.
Her skin became a map.
I saw my wrong turnings, my right ones.
But they all led to the same place.
From a leaky piano, a simple tune started up.
Lights dimmed and chatter ceased.
A tight white spotlight glued the two of us.
It gradually shrank to a pin dot,
focussed on her forehead.
I extended a finger to touch the dot of brightness,
and it went gently out,
like the last candle in the universe.
I stare into the candle flame,
the candle on a saucer
on the floor of my dark bedroom;
dark, but for the playing flame.
Sometimes shadows convulse.
I sit cross-legged,
and try to turn thoughts to clouds,
that would pass untroubling across mindsky.
Most remain and darken
into cloudknot, tensing the air around.
I breathe into the knot
and blue seeps through.
I breathe the clouds invisible,
with the help
of my scented tea-light.
Mark Mayes enjoys trying his hand at fiction, poems, and songs. He is currently living in the West Country and is putting the finishing touches to his second novel, The Grass Below and a collection of short stories which he hopes will then be brought to publication. He also hopes to one day publish a book of poems, and to begin working on a new novel fairly soon. He enjoys making simple recordings of songs, and to one day record a studio album with other musicians, as well as getting back to playing at folk clubs and open mic nights.