If you break a mirror,
bury the shards beneath a tree,
under a full moon.
Or burn and grind them
into a fine powder.
Float the fragments down
a southernly flowing stream.
The Romans believed
a broken mirror held
a trapped soul.
The night before my twenty-first birthday,
the cabinet door fell off its hinges,
a dead drop—
shattering in my parents’ bathroom sink.
I peered down at their angles,
at a face half-slathered with cold cream,
scented with powder.
In that bathroom, I smoked often—
with ceremony, incense and music
in front of a mirror that filled the wall like a tapestry.
After the first hits,
I welcomed the strangeness of my reflection,
clenching to hold a body together
which threatened to stall and stop,
find itself on its side in bed—
staring at March on the wall.
She opened her mouth,
and said hi—
unhinged to let in
the start of days,
before the sinking of afternoons,
the days light
and moments easy.
The girl I saw was hollow—
a collapsed star.
On the eve of my thirtieth birthday,
I waited at the witching hour
for spirits to arrive.
And they did,
they sat on my bed,
laid down casually on the carpet.
Some betrayed me,
whispered lies about my family.
Some were gracious,
bringing secret thoughts.
I looked for my grandfather,
the one in the photo
with the open-mouthed laugh,
lifting me in the air—
before the stomach cancer.
I imagined what he would say to me,
Listen to your parents—
to which I would respond,
But I know better.
By then the spirits had left,
He sat with me,
while I told him a vision
of witches burying a mirror,
deep under grandfather roots against an egg-shaped moon
before I was born,
before my brother learned to covet,
before I became my mother’s heart,
and my father’s worry,
and how those pieces,
because they couldn’t be burned,
were floated in a basket down a southerly flowing stream.
Angela Siew is a multilingual poet with an MFA from Emerson College. She was most recently a Peter Taylor Fellow for the 2023 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and has received support from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the City of Boston and the Community of Writers Poetry Workshop. Her work has been published in Salamander, Crab Orchard Review and Art New England, among others. A chapbook, Coming Home, will be published by CutBank (University of Montana) in 2024. Learn more at angelasiew.com.