A pair of glances intersecting.
Between the two the image dances.
Only between this pair of glances
Do I exist as something seen,
This hook and eye of glance and light
– working down the lines of sight –
that now I flash but then allow
to guide me through the mirror so
that I may glimpse the self that sees.
Continually I catch her eye
through moments to eternities
where they are fixed nor will let go,
not once, because what now divides
later conjoins and reunites
every time the glance invites.
It offers then it borrows back.
It breaks up the continuous flow
between the likeness and the fact
of face itself, the visual field
busted open: face erased
before my very eyes, shame-faced,
so vision itself seeks escape.
Between two pairs of eyes the thread
remains suspended in ‘instead’.
It fills my eyes in one brief glance.
It flies home, breaks on broken glass.
Another woman, bold as brass.
No seeing it. It’s language only.
Multiple pasts that gather in me,
reflections on which I reflected
but do not constitute a presence.
And yet the thing won’t let me be
but drags me back with brutal force.
I’m shackled to my image, held
and harnessed, braked and fully bonded,
obliged into an equipoise
stretched across the frozen sheet
of the mirror as by choice,
like rowers pulling on two oars,
dipping the oars into the fleet
current then dipping out again,
dipping and raising, dipping deep,
while it takes, then renders back
in to and fro: remove, repeat,
urged now to part, now to remain
a constantly repeated item.
compulsive in its come and go:
regress, regress, ad infinitum,
a siren that’s forever calling,
that grabs the eye and fiercely holds it
breaking the organ that beholds it.
The spell is broken like a trick.
Mere spectacle. A speck, a glance
the merest chance, a stroke of luck.
Notes on this poem
Fabó is unusual among contemporary Hungarian poets in having an interest in virtuosic form and using form for intellectual discourse. She has written in this way about feminist themes, like the girdle, not so much in terms of polemic but as a kind of existential oddity. It is the same with her poems about mirrors. The mirror, in her case, is not associated with the traditional themes of vanity, moral truth or even the examined self. The poems are about something more metaphysical, about the reality of what is on either side of the mirror and the dialogue between them. The rhyming and metrical sharpness suggest play and there is indeed a deal of teasing out reality. But, under the teasing and play, there is considerable emotional force. These problems, say the poems, speak to our core not our wit, and are pressing matters, necessary for our sanity. All the more Fabó’s background is in linguistics and in the philosophy of language, she has written various essays and studies about hermeneutics and grammar, broadening out to ethics as well as plays and several books of poems. Her first collection, Anesztézia (Anaesthesia) appeared in 1988. Her most recent book, Racun / Poison (2015) was published in Indonesian and English translation in Jakarta. Her work also appears in various international anthologies.
In an interview with Leslie Tate, she says: ‘I always write the same poem… I handle strong, unusual themes in a casual, matter-of-fact manner.’
– George Szirtes