In the Mirror
Mornings my father wiped a circle clean in the mirror steam, a towel wrapped around his waist, his face lathered with a pale gold powder mix from his porcelain mug. A shaving blade scraping against his jaw, then dipped in the sink. His wax kit and scissors laid out for his moustache. Some mornings, I rummaged in his closet, past the suits, the camouflage vest—its elastic slots for rifle shells— his army jacket, a dashiki, for the checkered shirts my mother sewed for him long ago. On the floor were his racked shoes that I polished, the bag of toothbrushes and cotton cloths I used for buffing between the stitches of his Johnston & Murphy’s. Whenever he was fitted for a suit, I accompanied him, examined his sleeve, the subtle woven colors in the wool’s weave as my father stood in the trifold mirror, its infinite reflections of him. I wore his old ties with ankle-length skirts and combat boots. I watched as he wrapped a half Windsor knot and slipped it over my head, cinched it closed at my neck. After school, I stacked cordwood beside him in the yard, worked the weed whacker, the chain saw, and he let me sip from his double shot of Jack. Chamber music on the stereo, we’d grill in the backyard, sit through dusk’s mosquitoes, fireflies, June bugs, and moths. I didn’t know my own strength, my father said to convince me my hands were as good as his—that time passing me the garden hoe to cut a chicken snake sprawled on the warm floor of our garage—that I was the best son or daughter he could have.
Copyright © 2017 Chanda Feldman. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.