The wall dematerializes as a form and allows the name to become the object…
– Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Walls and Mirrors, Fall 1982
The English translation of my surname is walls
misspelled, the original s turned to its mirrored
twin, the z the beginning of the sound for sleep.
I’m nearly twelve and the mirror is a disaster I
learn to turn away from, the girl looking back
always looking to extract her pound of flesh.
I had a simple impulse to cut into the earth,
Maya Lin is writing as the mirrored wall
of names she’s made is arranged and laid
against the riven hillside. I never looked
at the memorial as a wall, she writes, but
as an edge to the earth, an opened side.
For a wall to become a mirror it must not
absorb or scatter too much light; for a girl
to become the protagonist she must sleep
with the guy or until he kisses her awake.
Sometimes we know she’s the fairest one
of all because of the mirror on the wall.
Sometimes she must scale the city’s walls
to bury the guy. Antigone cuts into the earth
to give him his proper memorial. She ends
up the heroine and buried alive, an in-be-
tween thing, like someone who’s eleven or
nearly twelve. When I look at the number
11 I see two walls, my name and its mirrored
twin. Sometimes 11 resembles the mirrored
L’s at the end of wall or the beginning of llanto,
the Spanish word for weeping. Sometimes 11
looks like a pair of railway sleepers arranged
and laid along a track that’s always leading me
back to my war-worn father. Sometimes the guy
comes back from battle and has seizures
in his sleep and the girl must shake him awake.
Sometimes the wall and the name are one
and the same. Sometimes the wall is where
we end up to begin letting go our llanto.