Mirror Box – Joseph Kerschbaum

Imagine a gun firing
next to your ear. Imagine
the constriction of your muscles.
Freeze the shock. Take
that state of your body,
pour it into one location –

your arm. Take that mongrel,
twist it behind your back.
Place your grasping fingers
in a vice. Now make your arm

Leave the throbbing
in the ether.

Your invisible bones
forever bending, never

breaking. I would show you
where it hurts
but when I point
to the pain

I point at air.

Slumbering limb
needling awake.
This is how

my arm feels
some nights.
This is how
the void

where my arm
used to be


This box
is a confessional.
I enter
alone. Remain alone.
Just me and the ghost of me.

The hand in the mirror
is not real.

This is my hand. That is a mirror.
That is my hand’s reflection.

Each fingertip feels
like a déjà vu –
something that has
and hasn’t happened.
Something alien
and intimate.

The muscles
that don’t exist
begin to unclench
like the jowls of an animal
releasing, allowing
you to live.

Only when I look
directly in the mirror
am I free of my phantoms.

Ask me
to point
where a void
unlocked its jaw.

Ask where I reside entirely
but there is only air and reflection.

I point at the box.

The hand in the mirror is real
Joseph Kerschbaum

Joseph Kerschbaum has published five previous collections of poetry. His recent books include Ken: A man for all seasons (Plan B Press), Your Casual Survival (Plan B Press) and The Handless Long for Sign Language (Pudding House Press). His work appears widely in print and online publications (Bathtub Gin, Arsenic Lobster, Stirring, Facets, Poetry Motel, Eclipse, Stray Dog, Tipton Poetry Journal, Red River Review, Ward 6 Review, Catalyzer, Failbetter). Kerschbaum has also released two spoken word albums. Kerschbaum has been awarded the Greer Foundation Fellowship for Creative Writing as well as an Individual Artistic Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and The National Endowment for the Arts.