The Bearded Mirror published in Lichen journal Spring/Summer 2005
When I first entered this house, all the mirrors faced the wall. Strange I said to myself at the time and prayed that I had not stumbled into another man's curse. The landlady though not a beauty is still young and has that particular charm. Her husband, a watchmaker by trade, is a clean, precise man with a heavy, greying beard. I'm a very quiet boarder except at the night when I begin to cough up the metal dust. Even with a blanket stuffed under the door, I'm sure they hear me. It must be the lack of oxygen that causes me to finally pass out, and dream of geometry and gems.
I feel like a ghost in this small, boxed room with its sloping ceiling. But hatred is a slow waltz that I dance to even during my moments of breathless dizziness when the cracks in the ceiling swirl by. I listen to the wheezing that is my lungs and try to work myself into a silence. Everything used to be so easy.
The couple's young boy is a freak of nature, all covered in hair. Though I suspect his parents have kept him in ignorance of his condition. He calls me uncle and I draw eggs for him filled with miniature carriages, aeroplanes, and dead czars and czarinas and their precious-eyed daughters.
"Boy", I tell him and point to my heart. "It's what’s inside that counts, the jewelry inside. That's what really matters."
He likes to dig in the garden with his bare hands and chew on the roots and dog bones he finds. I am trying to open his eyes, shrouded though they may be. The family cat grooms him with her tongue and I take a bath before him because of the mess he leaves behind.
I’m different as well, an artist, who can lose himself in creating the sapphire eyes of a horse or the golden threads of a carriage wheel. I felt such joy when the last piece was put in place and then my creation was hidden within the confines of an egg made out jade. These eggs were given by Czar Nicholas to members of his royal family to celebrate the rebirth of Christ at Easter. But the dead can't roll back the stone of history, they are gone now, victims of a few bearded men with fevered ideals.
The War itself has been over for two years but I'm still shocked at all the limbless men I see. They are like toy soldiers thrown back into the forge and melted into strange disfigurements. They come here to this city of Lausanne in south west Switzerland to be outfitted with metal legs and arms, the Swiss seeing the work as nothing more than creating hands (or feet) for a large kind of clock.