The Stone Is a Mirror Which Works Poorly

A collage by James Diaz. It contains the words "Some days I don't remember my mother. I look at her photograph and she escapes me. I want whoever touched the small of my back in Mammy's kitchen to declare himself. To say, again, that everything will be alright." This text appears to be cut out of a book. The background image is taken up mostly by a large window, where a young girl sits, looking sombrely to the side. A paper cutout of a woman takes up the right side of the image, and below her is a television broadcasting a blurry image of a face. The collage is in black-and-white, tinted lightly in sepia.

Featured art by James Diaz.

On July afternoons, Medusa sat by the living room window, accompanied by her oldest child. If she closed her eyes, she could remember how quietly Grady slept in her arms for the first time home from the hospital, or how his curious fingers teased the serpents who seemed charmed by the music of a toddler’s high, throaty laugh.

Instead, she focused on her youngest’s Instagram profile.

Solomon, who ran away two months ago for California and never updated his address, received an engraved plaque in the mail for winning first prize in the National Geographic youth photography contest. Included in the delivery was a complimentary copy of the issue in which his interview appeared. The article had published where to find more of his work.

His Instagram was mostly portraits: one photo displayed a barefoot woman lounging on a slackline; another featured a Santa Monica pier vendor squinting through a jeweler’s lens--a grain of rice in one hand and a fountain pen in the other. The only picture of Solomon that Medusa could find during her fervent search was incidental. It was an image of a parking garage attendant leaning against the door to his booth. In the background, a convex mirror reflected the familiar shade of a favorite yellow shirt, and the white pants where a hole in the left knee grew wider each time a toe snagged the torn fabric.

Medusa caught herself only being able to remember Solomon by the things that signaled his shape: the dirty laundry left on the floor, the black slip-on Vans kicked to the bottom of the stairs each day he came home, the hats she bought him regularly to help him avoid her gaze--their styles and sizes changing with his needs over the years. In trying to recall the details of his face as it appeared before her in the mirrors she’d installed along the walls of their house, the presence of further reflections--doubling, quadrupling--bloomed in Medusa’s mind, obscuring her son’s features in their endlessness.

Daylight descended behind the neighbor’s roof. Grady began to lose what heat his stone body had absorbed from the sun. Medusa dialed Solomon’s number. The call went directly to voicemail once again, his recorded voice putting her at ease until nightfall, when the motionlessness of her oldest, as he lay tucked in bed, could be perceived as sleep.

An image of Ellie Gordon, the author.

Ellie Gordon is a nonbinary writer from the Pacific Northwest. Their work can be found with Jellyfish Review, Ligeia Magazine, Rejection Letters, and others. They tweet inconsistently at @autonomousbagel.


James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018) as well as the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their work has appeared in Yes Poetry, Thimble Lit Mag, Gone Lawn, Twist in Time Literary Magazine and The Collidescope. They have never believed in anything as strongly as they do the power of art to help heal a shattered life.