The hall of mirrors
is not the place for me
I already see
a million times over
in other people’s faces
Caged but still singing
my mind prances within its confines
knowing enough to know
that I am contained but not to know how to traverse the boundaries
or to look for holes to shoogle through
one tendril at a time
A palace can be a prison
the opposite can be true
for if I was able to let my body rest a while
unnoticed, locked away
my mind would seize the freedom of the unobserved
and trill from heights that this flesh will never see.
The bodily and performative reflections of the hall of mirrors made me think about gender now and in the past. A place of such pride and status where you cannot escape your own self-image gave me pause to consider the ways that we can become trapped in our bodies through societal expectations of and projections onto the corporeal. It is often easy to regard history as a clear line of progress but writing in a voice that is somewhere between the past and present made me think about how some of the more fluid aspects of different eras and places are overlooked in an attempt to fit narratives around gender and sexuality into a sanitised, linear arc. Seeing myself over and over again is one of my worst nightmares and yet thinking about reproduction, of the image, the self, the body, made me feel connected to those dotted throughout the past whose bodies have been weaponised against them, just as we struggle to live in small, uncomfortable boxes now.
Elspeth Wilson is a researcher and writer interested in all things gender and sexuality related. She is a big believer in blurring boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘academia’ and always looks for creative ways to approach research. She prefers to write poetry, essays and short stories and is currently working on a project about the experience of pleasure post-trauma which you can see more of @propleasurable.