Excerpts from “Facing the Mirror: An Essay”
A practice: At home, early morning, take a pad of sticky notes and a pen. Start in the kitchen. If you can see your face in the object, put a number on the sticky note and stick it to the object. Suggestions: Knives (1-4). Spoons (5-8). Plates (9-19). Bowls (20-28). Rings (29-30). Earrings (30-38). Glitter (39). Mason jar lids (40-44). Perfume bottle tops (45-46). Sunglasses (47-48). Patent leather shoes (49). Belt buckles (50). Hair clips (51). Computer screens (52). The door to the microwave (53). Lids to pots and pans (54-56). Lids to candles (57-59). The teakettle (60). The mirror (61).
The final sticky note is the number of faces looking back. How many you you live with. How many you you are.
A practice: To determine where one experiences oneself, a simple test related to mirror images may be used. When the subject’s eyes are closed, try writing the number 3 on their forehead. Ask them, What do you see in your mind? Is it a 3, or an E? If they see it as an E, the implication is that it is being seen from a psychological self inside their head. If it is seen as a 3, their psychological self is before their face.
There is some evidence that more men than women see themselves from the outside—from in front of their face—as though they have mirrors watching their own expressions, how they appear to you.
Now that you know the trick to discerning where one experiences the self, you of course can’t know yourself. You’ve seen the trick revealed. Reveal, from the Latin revēlāre, to remove the covering from, unveil, to raise the lid of, open. To let light
A practice: All day eat only foods and drinks with reflective surfaces. Suggestions: Coffee. Hot glazed donuts. Waxed apples. Melting cheese. Glossy broth. Lozenges. Ganache. Before bed, make of them a list. Circle all the listed vowels. Distill the most common vowel and write it big on its own piece of paper. Inside your mouth, find the shape your tongue makes to pronounce this vowel. Fall asleep holding this silent shape inside
A practice: In a large room cleared of its furniture, hang a mirror at the height of your face on the wall. Standing at the mirror, affix two pieces of paper with tape just above and below your head on the mirror’s surface. Now back up. Walk backward again, holding the gaze of your reflection-face. Your face will continue to occupy the same space as it did when you were standing close. The mirror will fail to reflect any more of yourbody than your face.
Obsession is the law of reflection, or its result. This insistence.
Page 3: This “simple test” and some of its language come from page 10 of Richard Gregory’s book Mirrors in Mind (Penguin, 1997).
Page 4: The idea for this practice came from a passage on page 355 of Mark Pendergrast’s Mirror Mirror (Basic, Books, 2003) on the law of reflection.
Listen to Katherine read "Practices" below:
KATHERINE INDERMAUR (she/her/hers) is the author of the chapbooks Facing the Mirror: An Essay (Coast|noCoast, 2021) and Pulse (Ghost City Press, 2018), winner of the Black Warrior Review 2019 Poetry Contest and the 2018 Academy of American Poets Prize, and editor for Sugar House Review. Her writing has appeared in Colorado Review, the Cortland Review, Entropy, Frontier Poetry, Ghost Proposal, the Journal, New Delta Review, Oxidant|Engine, and elsewhere. Katherine holds an MFA from Colorado State University and lives in Salt Lake City. Twitter: @kgindermaur Instagram: @kgindermaur