i want to make a lantern. i want to fill it with herbs, with stones, with symbols. seeds and shells. a key, a lotus pod. a knotted cord. rosebuds. i want to cover my symbols with blessed oil then with sunflower seed oil, then float a wick and see what happens. seeker's candle burns on my altar, at least on the wall shelf above my altar, but perhaps this is another matter? that candle is for seeker. the lantern will hold allegories for seeker's desires: seed, stone, key, cord, rose, then lit by seeker's most beloved snack, what feeds seeker, what nourishes seeker, what is needed to keep seeker around. every symbol in its place and every symbol a satisfactory embodiment for: light the way. oh, light the way.
light the candles in old plain walgreen's votive cups, light them in handcrafted handmade blown glass artisanal art glass cups swirling with red and black, light them on brass candle sticks stolen from her maternal grandmother's estate. light them on plates, on four-foot tall stands, in seven day vigil jars, in three day vigil jars sold as seven day vigil jars. i used to at least have a vigil jar going, i used to at least go through fifty cent votives at a good clip, i used to line my room with vigil jars and votive cups in the winter at night when the power went out or the furnace failed: i'd think, oh, i am so clever, this way i have found to keep warm tonight! oh, i am so clever: my mattress on the floor, the blue velvet-lined carrying case on its side. the television on, unsettled, flipping through the stations, flipping station to station, flipping station to station, why can't i let it go? again, why can't i let it go?
i shouldn't have slept for so long with a mirror at my feet. it seems like an irresistible opportunity for soul theft, for disembodied voyeurs, at the very least some unpleasant four AM startles. now i will not sleep in a room with a mirror, or now i do not sleep in a room with a mirror, except i do but it's not like that. back then i did it, i slept in a room with a mirror at my feet, and i did it because that's what my life had been building to: a mirror at the foot of the bed, a door behind the mirror. so many points of entry. so many points of exit. never the comfort of a shut door that stays shut. never the certainty of think i'll just stay in for the night. perhaps to facilitate astral travel, perhaps some kind of mortality meditation, perhaps a private methodology of performance art. perhaps who knows: i wanted to sleep naked before a mirror. i had my own reasons. i didn't know what they were, but i definitely had them.
i sat before my mirror naked. i sat at the foot of my bed. i stared at my naked reflection. i stared until i lost track of the mirror's boundary. i stared until the mirror switched. i was always doing that, growing up: staring until the mirrored reality switched. i became the reflection. the reflection became me. upside down became right side up. right side up became upside down. i didn't do it enough, or i stopped doing it at the wrong time. i sat naked at the foot of the bed and stared at myself in the mirror. between me and the mirror, a burgundy pillar candle that smelled like vanilla and smoke, smoke from smoldering rose petals, that was set on a garage sale saucer ringed with roses. i'd bought it along with a 1928 book on fortune telling the previous summer. i still have the book. the saucer broke on a bad day in iowa.
back to that year: that year was drowned in roses. ophelia face down in her unattended river. whoops. sure knew what that was about. incapable of her own distress. the things people do to themselves when you can't get through to them. the trees they drop out of. the mirrors they fall into. aslant a brook indeed. the candle was lit, the flame was low. the flame clung to the wick, slobbering its distracted heat. orange at the outer edge, purple at the elliptical points of contact. the candle was lit but it didn't give much light. the room was light but the light in the room had nothing to do with my candle. the light in the room came through the window. maybe the flame would drown out in the wax. maybe my sister would fling open my bedroom door. the door wasn't locked: i did things like this. i do things like this. i court oblivion. i try to make it look like a mistake. it would have been a mistake, but, then, also. if my sister flung open the door, probably the flame would splatter out. probably. i sat on the bed. i stared into the mirror. sister light in the dark. sister dark, sister dark. sister, sister, always again sister.
my mirrored reality switched and switched again. my mirrored reality switched into a third, previously unknown, reality. and then.
three days later my best friend would put on too much makeup, enough makeup to make up for the makeup she wouldn't yet let herself wear outside of our bedrooms. sitting on the floor, right in front of the mirror, careful again careful not to drop powder onto her contacts. she spiraled in on her eye with a pencil. she dropped each lid and coated it with shadow. pleased, she left the mirror and sat on the floor besides the mattress. she'd offer to put makeup on me, perhaps, perhaps if she did, we would match. she wanted us to match. that's what good friends did: they matched.
i didn't want makeup and i didn't want to match any more than we already did, sister again sister, but that's a story for another time. we listened to the first new order album, the one where they hadn't quite figured out they weren't joy division. i love the liminal, i love the transitions, i love the places that are what they are but not quite what they aren't: except when i hate places like that, but as a daughter of crossroads i am ever doomed to crossroads; i've found it goes better for me if i make peace with it. my friend and me, we listened to movement. we didn't move, for a second. for a second, we sat perfectly still. we watched each other, fully clothed, excessively clothed, in fact, whatever the rumors were about us, in the mirror on the back of my bedroom door. i wondered where she would end up. i wondered where her reality stopped switching. in fact i wonder, still.