Thursday, December 15, 2011

Poem of the week

I may have mentioned somewhere on the blog that I don't read much poetry. I will read the occasional good poem I happen to stumble upon, but I don't systematically sit down with a collection of poems and blaze through them.

I am making a conscious effort to alter my reading habits and include more poetry. In the past, the barrier was always finding good poets. Recently I found out that one of my classmates here is an avid poetry reader, and a big fan of T.S. Eliot. I struck up a conversation with him and he recommended a few good collections. In fact, he lent me a copy of a collection of sonnets by Borges.

So here's the plan: as I go through these poems (and hopefully more in the future), I will copy one poem a week, and maybe say a few things about that poem.

Here's this week's poem:

The Mirror
-Jorge Luis Borges

As a child I feared the mirror might reveal
Another face, or make me see a blind
Impersonal mask whose blankness must conceal
Something horrible, no doubt. I also feared
The silent time inside the looking glass
Might meander from the ordinary stream
Of mundane human hours, and harbor deep
Within its vague, imaginary space
New-found beings, colors, unknown shapes.
(I spoke of this to no one; children are shy.)
Now I fear the mirror may disclose
The true, unvarnished visage of my soul,
Bruised by shadows, black and blue with guilt -
The face God sees, that men perhaps see too.

Mirrors have triumphantly entrenched themselves in our society. Our apartments, houses, what-have-yous are all studded with mirrors of all sizes, shapes and contours. They serve as excellent plot devices in dramas as well as in horror flicks. As a child, I imagined that a whole "parallel" world existed beyond the mirror. Learning about angles of incidence and angles of reflection in school took away the magic of the mirror, and now it's there to remind me to shave under the jaw twice and taunt me by revealing the two strands of grey hair that I have sprouted lately. In the poem I like the rough, abrupt transition from describing a child's innocent imagination to the frank disclosure of the darkness of adulthood ("Now I fear...").

Next week I will another one.

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