mirror, mirror*

Poem by Zsuzsanna Ardó

Music by Jonathan David

Premier at the European Parliament, in Brussels, 2015.


mirror, mirror

i’m looking
at the hairdresser
in the mirror

she’s cutting my hair

with flair
she talks to me
with ease and candour
about her life
why she doesn’t like
to live in a place nearby

mirror, mirror

"oh, loads of gypsies… live there"
she says
and stabs
the scissors in my wet, dark hair
by my temple
doesn’t stop
to elaborate
she does not feel
the need
to explain
her comment any further

mirror, mirror

i’m looking
at myself
in the mirror
assumed co-opted
yes she takes it for granted
that i resonate
with her values
the stance implicit in the comment
she just said
listening to her chatter
staring at the scissors flutter
stabbing, at a frenetic pace, around my face

mirror, mirror

spontaneous and casual
everyday racism – no surprise
for a while
looking at her disarming glance
her face
in the mirror
our gaze interlaced
and i remark
looks so much like a roma
and perhaps… so do i

then i hear
the social anthropologist in me
the open-ended question
what sort of neighbours
are they i ask
"oh" she smiles
"i get on with them just fine
but… you know..."
flinging at me fast
a very different smile
and stabs hard by my eye

mirror, mirror

how long is the journey

how fragile

from the knowing smile
of the "but you know…" kind
to nuremberg 1935
the absurd laws
that define ‘others’
outcasts alien blood
nonsensical racial
purity theory
terrible irony
as ‘aryan’ as german, english, french
and most of the rest
of their civil rights

mirror, mirror

the journey from here
to 1944
that night
swift enough
clouds fragile
smoke scars the sleepy sky
thousands devoured
that night
as before and thereafter

mirror, mirror

how long is the journey
how fragile
from the knowing smile
of that kind
to social exclusion
loss of rights
scars scorching the sky

© Zsuzsanna Ardó 2013 www.ardo.org

* First published by Creatives without Borders and the Arts Festival of Bellerive, in France, 2014. Translated into various languages, including Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian, German, French, Italian and Welsh.