“In The Mirror” By: Kristen MacKenzie

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Who are you to pick and choose, to block up the flow because you think it won’t be good enough? Since when have you been chosen as the judge of anything? This is the flow of the universe, of all the words that move from mouth to ear to mind, from mind to pen to eyes. They don’t stop here, they don’t start here, they move through. Let them!

You put your feet into those weird, poorly fitting boots and stepped onto skis when you were a child, not having any idea if you could stay upright, and you fell. Yes, you fell. And yes, your knee still makes a sound like a canvas sail ripping whenever you get up from the floor, but you did that thing you said you would; you blasted down slopes that were orange under the lights of the lifts with nothing but stars and the sound of your own voice for company. You did this when you were a child with plenty to be afraid of. You let the mountain and the wind be the force and the flow and it shaped you. You are that person still; don’t forget.

So you lined some words up on the page that sounded like something that’s already been said, and by someone smarter than you. Is that success? Is that doing it right? Those are not your words. Those are the words you picked because you were afraid to sit down and open yourself up like an unholy faucet and let hurricanes and tidal waves rip through your throat. You didn’t chose to be a funnel for a natural disaster of words, and you didn’t choose to be the open soil where dead things are buried and flowers grow but that’s what you are. Don’t think you can pave it over and put up a library and call it enough. You are not that. You are the rocks at the bottom of the mountain. You are not avalanche lilies and waterfalls and a perfect even path that leads to a viewpoint. Let your words be the storm that rips the top off the mountain and sends it away in pieces that line the roads for generations. Be the warning and the violence, be the tiny plant that splits a rock wide open with the force of its growing. Free it!

Your body is not yours either. Do you think all this applies to what lives between your ears? It doesn’t stop there. What right have you got to live carefully, to step quietly and hide the things your body does, what it wants and what it needs? You are the storm, not the manicured lawn the rain falls on. Rip it loose! Get to the end but don’t go gently. No one asked you if you wanted to be here. You don’t need to ask permission to live and breathe and fuck and fight. Do it! Do it your way. Bite with your lips pulled back and let the juice flow, let the blood drip. Hold on until your hands forget they’re hands and your fingers become tree roots, sinking in and digging deep. Be here to stay. No, you are not forever, but you are not alive at all if you live like you need permission.

What are you doing when you open your mouth and those polite things come out? Do you believe you’re fooling anyone? Your face is not the face of gentle and quiet. Your body is not soft and it is not easy. When are you going to live with your face/body/soul/words in alignment? Stop speaking words that put you two steps backward away from what’s true. Don’t jump ahead with an axe trying to carve out a spot for yourself. Walk like you are the axe and the way will split open for you.

This isn’t the world where two equals one. But you can choose one without becoming less if you do it honestly. What do you want? And when you want it, what part of you is doing the wanting? Is it the past and the lies you’ve told about who you are? The more you tell them, the harder it will be to hear your truth. If you don’t know if you’re speaking the truth, stop talking. Listen. You didn’t know truth when you lived it before you knew words, but you lived it anyway. Lose the words if they’re hiding you.

The past can push you forward only so far before it loses its steam. Don’t train yourself to fight from someone else’s power over you. Don’t use the hurt they gave you as the only gear moving you forward or you’ll be forever looking for the next person to hurt you so you can keep moving. Move because you can’t do anything else, move because you’re unstoppable, move because moving is living. And you can pretend you want to stop living but the truth is only that you’re ready to stop hurting.

So what do you want? Do you want to be seen? Do you want to be heard? Do you want to move like this body and these words are no more yours than the earthquake or the tide? Then do it. You know how.


Kristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned Journal, GALA Magazine, Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit, and is included monthly in Diversity Rules Magazine. Pieces are forthcoming in Blank Fiction, Crack the Spine Magazine, Maudlin House, and MadHat Annual. Her short story “Cold Comfort” placed in Honorable Mention in The Women’s National Book Association’s annual writing contest and will be published in a special edition of the association’s journal, Bookwoman, in June.

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