by Amee Nassrene Broumand


This isn’t an essay. It started life as an essay but then it began to twist & bristle & sprout distinctly unessaylike appendages.

The eyestalks struck me by surprise.

Perhaps it’s an insect or some sort of strange crustacean.

* * * * *

Imagine you find a giant handbag bleating in the corner like a lost lamb. You take it & shake its contents out onto the table.

What do you find?

Take a minute to think about this.

* * * * *


* * * * *

Now imagine that the handbag contained all the elements of your psyche. What you see heaped before you now includes your conscious personality, your unconscious mind, & your sense of your body; it includes every emotion, sensation, memory, decision, dream, daydream, thought & halfthought you ever had. Every forgotten lullaby, every turned & unturned stone. The whole shebang.

This heap of detritus on the table is in some sense you, even though it isn’t shaped like you. Indeed, it doesn’t even look stereotypically human. If you had to guess what it was, you’d say it was an interdimensional splice between a tornado-ravaged curiosity shop & an umbrella that’s secretly a black hole.

There’s lots to explore in the heap: toads; rubies; kings & rings & dingdong things; sarcastic nightmares; an old magic set; starveling caterpillars. Discarded & unloved fragments of self. Potentials. Broken zeros spilling infinite integers everywhere.

You may also find an extensive array of ghosts—some charming, some inherited, & some which appear to be escaped denizens of arachnid hell. Don’t worry, this is all normal (albeit unpleasant).

All in all, this is perplexing. You see your name fluttering mothlike over the heap, but this does little to convince you that this mess is in fact you. After a while you find your mental mirror—the one you always carry with you. You look into the glass—


& then you look back at the haunted heap on the table—


Seemingly, you’re not who or what you thought you were. What went wrong?

* * * * *

We all carry a mental mirror around with us. That mirror is distorted, warped, & superimposed with external & internalized images; some of these images are even completely false, the product of our own wishes or insecurities. Contrary to our perceptions, our sense of self doesn’t correspond exactly with the living, breathing fact of us; nonetheless we frequently treat what we see in our mental mirror as though it were an irrefutable stone.

It’s not. In a lifetime of countless facts & happenings, we choose—often unconsciously—which facts & happenings define us. That is, in the great game of identity, we prioritize certain elements of our own story over others.

It’s a matter of necessity: our minds simply can’t give all information the same weight. There are too many minutes in a lifetime for each one to be incorporated into a conscious personality. As a result, much of who we are gets ignored, denied, or forgotten.

Our mental mirror doesn’t reflect reality—the seemingly inhuman heap—but rather a human-sized construction based on our own subjective view of that reality. Indeed, it may be psychologically impossible for a human to have a mental mirror that’s 100% accurate.

So­ what? you say.

* * * * *

You look again at the heap on the table. There are griffins & goddesses you’ve forgotten about. You can’t see them in your mirror the way it is now, but what if you wiped the glass off a bit? There, now one of the griffins is visible in the mirror, peering just over your shoulder.

Perhaps there are rare elements brooding in the heap, treasures you’ve never truly seen before. They may even be hiding in plain sight, obscured by smudges on the mirror.

* * * * *

How do you go about exploring this heap? Unlike a wall, it’s not a corporeal thing.

BroumandWall (2)

* * * * *

There’s something liminal about the writing process. When words are pouring forth onto the page—or crawling, or weeping, or what you will—identity suddenly reveals itself as malleable. This is the grey sparkling space where what has happened to us & who we thought we were starts to alter: what is old & unloved is rediscovered, reshaped, reborn. We discover new uses for what we already have—even the goblins. New structures of selfhood unfold in the mist.

Writing is like cleaning out & reorganizing a magical closet.

When we write, unspoken facts, happenings, & perceptions take on a reality they once seemed to lack. When we write we find patterns, we find the longlost pieces of our own puzzle. When we write—when we write for ourselves with neither hope nor fear of an audience—the leviathans swimming through the refuse pop their heads up from the depths & speak. Together we cough up entire oceans, oceans of mud & tangles & sharks & stars.

Suddenly, that solid grim form in the mirror begins to shimmer, & the surface begins to give way—



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I’ll be BHP’s GUEST EDITOR for the month of MARCH 2018!

I’ll be considering




Send me your poems, fiction, nonfiction, visual art, & strange crustaceans!


For updates about this project & for future submission news


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Amee Nassrene Broumand is an Iranian-American writer & photographer who was born near L.A. & homeschooled in Vancouver, Washington. She has a B.A. in Philosophy & English from Boise State University, where she tutored logic for six semesters, graduated summa cum laude, & was named a Top Ten Scholar. Afterwards she wrote thousands of poems while working at coffee shops in San Francisco. Nominated for a Pushcart by Sundog Lit, she also has poems in Word Riot, A-Minor MagazineThe Rising Phoenix ReviewWindfall, & elsewhere. At present she lives in Portland, Oregon & blogs for Burning House Press.

Twitter: @AmeeBroumand