The Enchanted Mirror

A Poem by Michael Whitman

(Written at Soularize 2017 and the “Do I Matter” retreat 2017)


The man: “Who are you?”

The boy: “I am the boy.”

The man: “Why are you here?

The boy: “To tell you a story.”

The man: “I am listening.”

 

I walked along a path

In bright sun light

And heard the wind.

It sang

In the golden cottonwoods,

Sang in their shimmering leaves,

And the waving rushes.

The miniature willows sang too.

 

Beyond my sight,

I heard the river.

I stopped,

And stood still.

It sang as well!

 

In the sun light,

A memory awoke,

A long-ago moment when I –

Was mesmerized in its warmth,

Spell bound in a bird’s song one spring day.

 

The song began again,

Sweet scented in cedar,

In the death of a fallen cottonwood limb,

On which I sat,

And looked through the faintly misty air,

At the mountain.

And at you,

Who never sings.

 

The man: “Do I know the song?”

The boy: “You do!”

 

Once you wondered in a field

And felt a fear of the forest,

And the great bear that dwelt there.

You dreaded the forest and never approached it –

Until a man,

Even then –

You wore the weapon of fear.

 

You loved the forest

And its aromas of leaf, needle and flower.

Its bird song and insect presence

And small running animals.

You sensed healing here.

The great bear still terrified you.

 

You walked among the cedars and gray stones –

In guarded wonder.

Your steps were slow.

That night,

The great bear appeared to you,

In a dream,

A hulking monster.

You survived the visit,

In your amour of fear.

 

The man: “I remember this!”

 

And the next time I encountered its secretive shadow,

In another wood,

Awake all night,

Waiting.

There was an owl call,

And a flying closer and closer to me.

I saw the moon’s presence,

In the shadows of the trees,

On the earth,

All around me.

It all seemed like a medicine.

But the great bear,

I did not meet.

 

The boy: “I did.”

The man: “What was this like?”

 

It was like being in water,

Naked in the wind,

Running wildly and aimlessly,

Leaning my forehead

Against an ancient tree,

Too high to see above it,

Too wide to put my arms around it.

It was like falling into a pile of pine needles,

On a forest floor.

Hearing a child laugh,

A baby cry,

A man proud of his son,

A lover sitting close by.

The sigh of a healing heart,

The open soul.

 

The man: “This is great bear I fear?”

The boy: “It is.”

The man: “I am confused.”

 

The man:

I once followed a path

The great bear lurked nearby,

Following in the shadows.

The bear was ominous.

I stayed my path,

Terrified.

Each step calculated.

 

A small brown mouse with a white belly,

Gave me an acorn

And told me to care for it.

I did.

“When you are ready,”

The mouse said,

“plant it.”

 

The boy, “And did you?”

 

I was apprehensive.

Who would care for it?

Deer forage,

Chipmunks hoard,

It often does not rain.

The boy: “Let me continue my story”

The man: “By all means.”

 

One night I dreamed.

The great bear came to me,

And took me on a journey,

I grew tired,

It was a long way,

After a while,

I rode on the bear’s back,

Clutching the bear’s long fur.

The bear stopped and said,

“Do you see the mirror?”

I answered yes.

“What do you see in it?”

I see myself naked on a porch,

Being shamed.

Children are laughing at me.

 

“What else?”

You are trying to shield me with your shadow.

“What else?”

I cannot see what you are doing.

I hear growling

And showing of teeth instead.

I hide,

Deep,

Very, very deep.

I am angry, afraid

And feel alone and lost.

“What else?”

There is a fresh acorn.

I take it with me,

Into the dark.

“What else?”

I weep quietly

And uttered a curse,

That I would never be seen again.

“What else?”

I used to hear a song.

It grew silent were I hid.

 

The man: “I know this story too.”

The boy: “Would you like to see the mirror?”

The man: “I would.”

 

The boy and the man began their journey.

It was long.

Deep gorges,

Over steep hills,

Places that were cold,

Fording deep rivers,

Facing dangers at each turn.

The boy grew tired.

The man carried him on his shoulders.

They arrived.

The mirror, with its wooden frame and stand,

stood near the river, called mercy.

It was warm and pleasant there.

They rested and ate fruit and berries.

 

The boy: “It is time.”

The man: “For what?”

The boy” “To gaze into the mirror.”

 

Each stood before the mirror.

Side by side, looking into its depths.

The man heard fierce growling approach.

The boy saw his friend.

 

The boy: “Follow him.”

The man: “I am afraid.”

The boy: “Do whatever he tells you. Follow him.”

 

The great bear lowered the bear’s hulking body.

Both climbed on.

The boy in front of the man.

Three that were one,

And entered the mirror.

Silence and darkness ruled.

A quiet whimpering could be heard far away.

They moved toward it.

 

The mirror reflected the forest in front of it.

The grass,

The soft light of the sun,

Through the trees.

It slightly vibrated with the breeze,

And the river behind it.

It’s polished walnut frame,

Also reflected the sun light.

It’s wooden stand and feet,

Sitting on a quiet sand beach,

Very near the river, called mercy.

 

A foot stepped from inside the mirror,

And then another.

A naked man stood on the beach,

Holding a naked shivering boy.

Carrying him to the water’s edge,

Of the river called mercy,

He washed him,

Like you would an infant,

And stood him on his feet.

 

When the boy opened his eyes,

He was the man,

Holding an acorn in his hand.

He walked deep into the forest,

And heard its song,

And his own,

Where he found a meadow.

 

In the middle of this meadow,

He planted the acorn,

And walked away,

The melody of the universe,

In his heart.