by Ruth Zamoyta
September 10, 2017
The house looked the same, down to the flower
I picked from the winding path. The place mirrored
the white walls and bougainvillea of the film, but not the woman.
The gate unlocked, we approached the door, picturing the key
on her silent tongue, the bread stabbed by a knife,
the famous stairs, the window, and the soundless, sandled footsteps.
Soon we heard unsuspecting footsteps
and there appeared a plump, gray-haired woman,
startled by us until I held out the flower
and she knew why we had come. She pulled out a key
from her purse (not her tongue), and we entered a foyer with a mirror,
unshrouded, uncracked. We spied the table, but no bread, no knife.
We couldn’t remember, from Deren’s film, when the knife
had strayed from the table. We recalled its use as a mirror
and argued what room she had died in, where her footsteps
had stopped. We scanned the parlor for the original flower.
If it was silk it could still be here, with the phonograph, and the key,
which might have been the very one used by the woman.
But, no. We lingered, uncomfortably, then convinced the woman
to lead us upstairs. At the top there was a mirror,
oval and ominous. We climbed, debating who stabbed who with the knife.
As she ascended, I followed my lover’s sandled footsteps
and thought of forgiveness and the bouquet of flowers
she had rejected, her packed suitcase, her returning my key.
“A trial separation,” she had assured me as she put the key
into my hand, took one last look at the unwrapped flowers,
and walked out. Behind the door, I listened to her footsteps.
Now here we are, on a long-planned trip, arguing about a knife
in a film as we walk through the set, the house of the late woman
who made it, the movie we both love, looking into her mirror.
What does it matter whose face is in the mirror?
Who stabbed who? We all get our chance: me, her, the woman
downstairs, leaving us alone to scan her bedroom for a knife
we know isn’t there, like the phonograph and the key.
The only thing that remains is the echo of footsteps.
We press against the window like winter flowers.
Departing, she was unaware her footsteps crushed the flower.
Her face was a mirror to my sin, her pained glance a knife,
her lips pursed like a woman withholding a key.