The following five poems came from my subconscious. They reflect my inner struggle to escape my own escape world. I wrote them in sudden bursts of thought—in them, I either thought little about what I was writing or I allowed myself to write honestly without holding back. Mostly, I was just letting my fingers type. Of all the persona poems I’ve written, these are more personal and intense. And there’s a theme.
They all follow a character named Xavier Starks and his efforts to break out from his mirror labyrinth. Outside of this depiction, Xavier is a legacy character from my art and storytelling. These poems, however, don’t contain Xavier for any clear reason. When I wrote them, my mind used him as a proxy—my stand-in.
These poems lay bare my fight. They are the reason why my collected story worlds are called Reflections. And I hope that you will read them and know that you are not alone.
"Maybe Then You Can Finally Be Free," 18x24in, ink & alcohol marker, 2019
A symbolic illustration that sparked the flow of the forth poem.
All Poetry Presented:
© 2023 S.R. Finch -- All Rights Reserved.
My mind is like an endless hall of mirrors.
Twisting, turning, a sharp curve here, a slow arc there.
Some have accused me of retreating too deep into the halls.
Say that I tended to get lost wandering the corridors.
Really, though. It’s just harmless travel.
Some days, it's when I'm bored.
Other days, it’s when I’m stressed or anxious.
It's been happening for years, years prior.
Back deeper into the hall.
Maybe even before being “programmed.”
I don't know, I can't remember that far back,
but I sense there is a “far back.”
My voice echoes in silence.
Eccentric, odd, strange
Animalistic, wild, monstrous
All reflections in the mirror.
How long will it take until I find the real “me”?
I'm getting fed up with this search.
I draw my sword, spin it in my hand,
go to drive it into the silver pane before me
with the cowering, withdrawn reflection.
My sword jerks. Stops mere centimeters from the mirror surface
as a thin hand reaches up and pulls at the hilt.
“Let go,” he whimpers.
I yank it away. He grunts and grabs at the chain
connecting his neck to the blade.
“Let go,” he repeats.
But I don't hear him. I only see
his disheveled hair and
his shivering lips and
“Let go!” he screams.
But I don’t see him. I only see
Wild. Animalistic. Crazed.
He lifts up his arms
and gestures abstractly with his hands
before wrapping his fingers around my arm. “Let go.”
I shake my head and go to drive the sword in again.
He screams and chokes
before throwing his entire self backward
and ripping the sword from my hands with a crunching clatter.
Lost eyes find terrified eyes.
He grasps his head with his hands and moans.
My withdrawn reflection starts to cry.
I can only stare.
The scene fuzzes with a wet film
that I angrily brush away.
Voices clamor in my ears. Clamoring for attention, clamoring for me.
I barely turn my attention to them.
They don’t really want to be around me.
But my reflections cry out in pain and loneliness.
I glance back to the man curled up on the ground
among the glass shards,
his arms wrapped around our sword.
A rough hand slaps my back.
I jump, the mirrors shattering in my head, and turn to see my friend
always all smiles.
“You drift off again, Xavier?” He laughs. “Come on.”
I force a smile back. “Alright!”
Some days I wish they could see it. But most days,
I’m glad they can’t.
I murmur inside my mind.
My feet tap on the reflective surface of the floor
before swiveling in place.
How peaceful this world is
in comparison to the psychotic chaos
of the outside.
Outside the mirrors.
Outside the safe place.
Don't let them find you.
A broken murmur cuts through the noiseless murk.
A weary song.
I don't remember where I heard it from;
all I know is that it's nostalgic.
Grief cowers beside a shattered pane
speckled with crimson blood.
Sadness tries to hum along,
but a cracked Anxiety shouts for him to stop.
I wish memories
were easily altered, changed, erased, added,
programmed in like a simple line of
ones and Zeros.
I don't understand the point of some of them.
They cause so much pain.
A mirror shard cuts into Anguish.
Bitterness won't smile.
His home feels thicker, stronger than some of
Though you can't see it from the surface.
Apathy eerily smiles at me.
His creepy stare never flinches away
It's so obvious
I restart the song.
I don't have much for singing
so I vocal the beat
Anxiety is calm again.
to an extent to where I don't
As I approach the Core
of my mirror halls,
the song falters from my mouth.
I didn't want to admit it. You know,
if I don't have to, right?
But the deeper I go,
the more negative the mirrors become.
Mirrors broken but still screaming,
clawing for me to notice them. To acknowledge them. To embrace them.
My steps move faster.
I trip on a pile of mirror shards.
I don't know if I can live with the truth.
I’ve reached the Core.
It always feels so insignificant
in my mind.
Pulsing, whirring, twirling,
it sparks with pent-up energy,
But here, right in front of it,
facing it dead on…
It's bigger than I imagined.
The virus lurking within.
Quarantined for so many years.
Out of sight, out of
I can't anymore—!
Calm shatters without my even touching it.
The ground below me
begins cracking and blowing
shards up into the air
as the mirrors I never wanted
increase in their primal frenzy.
I grab my sword out from the sheath
at my side to try and
Kill the Core
And my past self follows
by my side
his chain bouncing as he hurries
to not be left behind.
me rushes ahead of me
as my legs give out
and I collapse.
The walls explode by my side.
of all the mirrors
I can't stop screaming.
That's not me, that's not me,
The mirror halls,
my world, my wonderful world,
crashes down around me
and smashes to black.
My past self clings to my hand
as I dangle from a dark pit
of overwhelming fear.
His wild eyes
Seem more like comforts now.
He pulls me up.
The Core is cold
full of trapped,
They warp and stare at me as I
trip and collapse into the center.
The mirror that makes up
snaps like an icy sea of turbulence,
and I watch
as my past self only clutches my sword
close to his chest,
and the mirror reseals before I can grab the edge.
My body cracks against a reflective floor.
As I sit up, I sit up in twenty different mirrors
surrounding me on every side.
The same hall with those same emotions.
Where can I go
when I am trapped in the prison of my mind?
Listen to the footsteps
the broken shards of a mirror
into the cement.
Listen to the footsteps;
can’t you hear it, too?
I can hear some screams in there.
Just like when the mirror falls from the wall
and smashes into itself.
You know, I think I like that sound the best.
Next time you get trapped in a hall of mirrors,
don’t expect me to help you.
I’d only recommend breaking your way out, and, well,
that hasn’t worked out so well for me.
Even with years of trying,
and years of punching through layers of glass,
I still can’t find my exit.
And now I’m all bloody.
Sure, rip apart the layers, tear into the backboards,
scratch out the shards,
there’s only going to be a new one underneath
that you’re going to cut and claw open
with your jagged fingertips.
Whatever happened to subtlety?
The mirrors make such attention-seeking sounds
when they’re broken.
I liken them to a cross between
screaming pain and crunching death.
Death to the reflection
who shatters and falls from his pose of grace
on the wall.
Did that one look frightened? How funny.
The last one that broke seemed angry at me.
I certainly don’t get why.
In fact, I think I did him a favor.
He wasn’t doing himself much good up there
staring at me like that.
Don’t guilt me, you’re the one who gave me this scar.
I didn’t do that.
And now you’re dust. Why did you have to do that?
Break it, break it,
Crack it open wide.
Dig into the backboard—
whoops, no exit behind this one.
Just another reflection.
Just another reminding reflection—
Oh, he’s gone now.
Don’t give me that weepy look,
you saw it coming. You saw me coming,
and you know I’m not here to play with smoke.
Your shards seem much more brittle
than the others you hid so well behind.
Does that mean I’m getting close?
The mirrors always break to reveal just another stupid mirror
hiding beneath a reflection.
If I get rid of you, will you leave me alone
with your contriving glances and grimaces?
I don’t wander down here for sightseeing,
that is true,
but I don’t care to acknowledge
my own haggard face.
After all, you spend enough time here,
and it all starts to feel the same.
This one behind here shatters nice.
It has that crisp crack
before it crumples into a tinkle of tears.
What was that look he gave me today?
That’s not right.
Wasn’t it that melodramatic crying?
But that one didn’t cry.
He didn’t even frown at me
before my boot kicked in his heart.
What was it?
It wasn’t Anger, I’ve taken care of him,
and it certainly wasn’t Envy,
he’s been slammed into Terror and Neediness.
I remember that one—
probably one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve heard
from this place.
It was as if a choir harmonized together,
glass scraping against glass against backboard against cement
ripping into each other’s souls and tearing apart themselves
in a thundering storm of glass hurtling into a pile of its own gore.
this one didn’t do that,
the sound was nice,
but it didn’t have that body
that all the others once had.
It didn’t have that melodious crunch
the other reflections made when they spiderwebbed out
and made that snapping scream.
Was there a reflection?
Well, if there wasn’t, then why am I so upset?
Listen to the footsteps,
listen to the glass grind into the soles of my boots
and the pores of the concrete.
Listen to the heavy, gasping breathing,
and the whimpering
and the desperate scratching into glass fractures.
Pointed mirror shards like sharpened knives
as they’re ripped off the paper backboard
and tossed to the floor.
The dirty-grey backing smears with a dark crimson,
and so does the reflection himself.
Fingernails punch into paper—
grind and tunnel through the layers—
and break into empty air.
The remainder of the board is peeled away,
leaving only the frame
boxing in a doorway.
The door shatters several more reflections
as it flies open.
,srorrim fo llah a ni deppart teg uoy emit txeN
.uoy pleh ot tcepxe t’nod
,llew, dna, tuo yaw ruoy gnikaerb dnemmocer ylno d’I
.em rof llew os tuo dekrow t’nsah taht
,gniynt fo sraey htiw nevE
,ssalg fo sreyal hguorht gnihcnup fo sraey dna
.tixe ym dnif t’nac llits I
How much more must I break
before what I think is my reflection
is really just myself?
My bootsteps fade off as I slow my gait down the edge of the mirror hall. This is just one of many, really. Criss-crossing up and down, intersecting as if weaving together to form the embryo of a world. Only, and I suppose the unfortunate thing is, I’ve let the halls grow. Maybe I liked it. Maybe I liked the way I got lost down the corridors and through the rabbit holes. Maybe I preferred the deep recesses of the reflective walls than to the deep scars of reality.
Oh, but then it falls apart. It always falls apart, it always has to crash under its own weight buckling the supports inside my heart. And like always, I gathered the shards most salvageable to piece together a new hall. A single hall, just that, quiet and easy. Again there was my sigh of relief, a pressure released as if the mirror labyrinth once created were an abscess ruptured out. It was peaceful again, it was safe again.
The thought makes me want to laugh now.
That hall, a distorted mosaic of the bones of a world built up over months, over years? Of course, it’s difficult to remember, but one of those fallen labyrinths was “peaceful,” too. Isn’t that right? You loved it, you cherished it, you enjoyed every crack and every flaw and every bloody mess that resulted from its neverending construction. Casualties. It didn’t matter that its continuous usage added to the strain of its foundations, warping the rebar and snapping the cement. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter. You heard the screaming of your reflections inside, but it didn’t matter. It was safe. It was “peaceful.” It was better than the empty reality outside the labyrinth where the chill of loneliness bit your flesh like frostburn.
It was better, so you thought, ignoring the necrosis of your mind and the abject anxiety stabbing into your heart.
And then, as a candle was lit to cut through the darkness of the halls—
—the foundations broke, and the thousands of glass panes reflecting back thousands of contorted versions of yourself—
But you and I both know that what you saw with the candle drove you to destroy the foundations yourself.
You’ve been on this one a long time, haven’t you? This new labyrinth’s quite large, and you’ve been trying so hard to keep the electricity running this time. But the lights have flickered more often than you’d like them to.
“I’ve been doing quite well with this one,” you muse as you pace along the expansive mirrored corridors alongside myself. “I’ve been doing quite well with this one,” you hum
as you watch
as I smash another reflection with my cut-up, bloody fist,
the scars that never heal criss-crossing over one another like our own mirror labyrinth. But when I say “our,” you know full well it’s really just you.
You know what I am. I’m not you. But you are me. I like to pretend I’m the master of my mirror labyrinth, but you know as much as I do that the only master in this hell is you.
So, what is it now?
When you were faced with the truth of one of your labyrinths, you had no choice but to see the darkness inside of it. Its Core. Its Core is nothing but the essence of your labyrinth. And no matter how many you build, and how far you go to overhaul the aspects of yourself you loath, the Core will always remain
as that twisted room.
You had your chance that time, didn’t you? To kill it. To kill the reasons why you hide within the halls of your mirrors. But you saw what was within
and shut down.
And now you’re back. Back in your new labyrinth. You’re all too aware of the Core, right? You know you have to face it. But I know I speak for you when I say that the Core is nightmarishly dark. No one can blame you for avoiding the inevitable. Though by avoiding the confrontation that matters the most, the cycle will just persist time and time and time again.
Breaking your way out of the mirror halls do nothing but harm you, you know that. And we’ve learned that you don’t have the control over the mirror labyrinth that you think you do. So if you can’t smash your way out, and you can’t face the Core alone...
My bootsteps cut off as I turn my tired face to a blank mirror. There isn’t anyone in it but myself, staring back at me. Or maybe it’s me staring back at you.
Facing the Core means confronting what you’d rather not. And this entire time, you’ve been so focused on your reflections that you’ve no idea of the infection lurking within yourself. In all honesty, I’m not sure the infection you’ve been blaming is here.
The mirror labyrinth began with you, didn’t it?
So then, end it with you.
Purge the malware within your own heart. If negatives are like bad programming, then I see no problem with the sword of the Lord being pulled from your rusted arsenal.
Maybe then you can attack the Core with all your heart and with all your soul. If you’re divorced from the mirror halls, it can’t hold you back any longer.
Maybe then you can finally be free.
The floor is silent. It makes no echo
as I pivot my pace.
A sigh, a cry, a mind
not quite whole when it’s made up of mirrors.
How peaceful this place is
in comparison to the psychotic chaos
of the outside.
But who am I kidding? The inside is nightmarish
a silly manifestation of all my years afraid of my own reflection.
Perhaps not me
But the pieces of me,
the panels that make up the labyrinth.
peace of mind
piece of mind.
Afraid of humiliation,
afraid of the mocking, of the belittling,
of the hurt, the fear, the abject anxiety
that eats at me like locusts
as all I try to do is survive through the stings.
the strongest of all, the talons that dig in deep and won’t let go,
that whisper that no one cares,
no one likes you,
no one appreciates you.
Loneliness breeds bitterness, breeds apathy, breeds anger,
breeds a hate for others,
a hate for myself. For myself, of myself.
I hate for myself. I hate to protect myself.
I hate myself. I hate… No, it doesn’t align. I can’t finish the line.
Who would want to be around someone who’s too sensitive,
The needy want, the neediness, the need.
What is it I’m looking for? I don’t understand.
I loathe, I know.
I loathe the fractures of me. The flaws no one can see
They see everything, the mind whispers,
they see awkwardness, and weakness, and confused childishness.
You look small, sound small, behave small.
Say it. Say it. You don’t want to say it, say it. Say it.
A bitch in youth’s clothing.
Is that what you think you are?
Twisted mind, what’s what you insist.
Evil thoughts, negative emotions.
Murder. Anger. Hate. Kill
the feeling inside of me that writhes like tendrils
when I’m faced with what I can’t control. Can’t command.
in your control box
controlling every face, every pose, every fragment
of your crawling, flawed, blemished, imperfect flesh.
You spit at what you can’t twist into perfection
with your scarred fists still bleeding
from all the mirrors you’ve broken.
What did you think would happen
when you tried to hide away the parts you hate the most?
You sing when you’re alone.
You cry when you’re alone.
Your song is warbled, out of tune, cracked.
It’s so intolerable to hear, the mind whispers,
and you shut up as soon as motion betrays an intruder.
Sadness likes the song. It likes to hum along,
but Anxiety tries to ruin it, it doesn’t want to listen
to its own song back at it. How embarrassing.
Perfection, you say, is unobtainable,
and yet you hyperfixate on the unobtainable.
The subtle behaviors, the steady feelings
that pound like a heart, like a drum, like a shrieking cacophony of words you can’t voice
because you’re too afraid to give them control.
Everyone is staring, your mind whispers,
they think you’re a freak. How flawed you are. How broken you must be.
What a child. What a creature of clumsy kindness.
Is that what you think?
You’re proud of your eccentricities
until that little worm of doubt whispers
that they stare
How old must she be?
How childish can you get?
That doesn’t match.
But I like that, you say,
I like that, but maybe it does look silly
and how childish, yes,
the parts of me I overblow
and want to fix
bury bury bury
beneath layers of shattered glass and blood and
myself, I hate myself,
why can’t I be “normal”?
But I don’t want to be like everyone else.
But no one will like you, no one will ever like you, who would want someone like you?
Hush now, listen to the broken glass beneath your boot
as you pace through what you’ve buried.
Look at it
Look at it
Child, look at it
There you dig,
you look for what isn’t there.
You try to ignore what is.
Self-hate, why do you self-hate?
Back to loneliness, yes,
back to loneliness and the root of the Core.
Loneliness leads to
Isolation leads to
Hurt leads to
the expectation of a strike, a slap
from someone who ignores you once again.
It stings worse without contact.
Your deepest passions, your joy
desired to be shared with others
and rejected with neglect.
Loneliness leads to
the feeling like you aren’t enough
like your passions aren’t enough
like everything you do is a disappointment
a crash of fallen expectations
a blemish against the eye
Loneliness leads to
the feeling like you are not understood
like your mind is an outlier
like you are a failure
for not keeping up with the march of others
running the same race you are
839 words of loneliness in this poem
7 million words of loneliness in your labyrinths
The Mirror Labyrinth forces you to look at yourself
sick and sick and sick and sick and tired
over the cracks of my mind
Eccentric, odd, strange lies one
misconceptions of a beautiful mind
Animalistic, wild, monstrous lies Zero
misconceptions of a broken mind
Hurt, destroyed lies X
lies only lies only lies
Is that what you think?
You can be hurt but never destroyed.
Bitterness can’t let itself go.
Envy stalks the success of others.
Sadness spins its wheels in sludge.
Anguish can’t understand its own keens.
Grief is blind to everything except memories.
Terror cowers at its own invisible shadow.
Neediness whimpers for reassurance of visibility.
Calm often overpowers to hide the panic inside.
Anxiety claws its heart out with one hand
and its skin off with the other.
Apathy has given up with everything
and everyone, and itself.
Aspects of yourself that you loathe are really,
is nothing but the essence of your labyrinth
is a twisted room
is nightmarishly dark
is why you hide within the halls of your mirrors
is the malware contorting what you hate about yourself
The mirrors are warped
because your perception of the mirrors you never wanted
We all have mirrors.
You’ve built your castle with them
to monitor every flaw and shatter what you hate.
Control. You want control over yourself.
B r e a t h e .
B r e a t h e .
B r e a t h e .
B r e a t h e .
De-warp the mirrors, tease out the tangles of your emotions,
sort out the broken pieces
and seal them back together again
with solid gold.
Melt the Core.
MELT THE CORE.
Tear down the walls
Thrust the sword -in your heart- through its mechanisms
Scream like you’re the only one screaming and the only one fighting
Because this began with you
And will end with you
You are high voltage
You are the master here
And you have the metal conduit
Of the Lord’s sword
In your hands
As you electrify the Core
And melt its blinding wall
And you scream like you’re the only one screaming and the only one fighting
But you know you aren’t alone anymore.
the core is melting
and the heat of my high voltage
eviscerates the crooks
of every bend and every corner and every corridor
of the mirror labyrinth
until I stand in nothing but silver and gold.
Xavier’s bootsteps cut off as he finishes his stride alongside me
out of what was once a labyrinth of mirrors
and as he turns, his smile is evident
even before I see it.
He sheathes the sword after kissing it once on the pummel’s center gem,
a rainbow-rimmed eye of a white so pure,
it must only be from Heaven’s forge.
“Now you can finally be free.” His hand is as warm as his emotions. “Now we can finally be free.”