January 27, 2006

and I walk down the street in the dawn

You, half-sunk in my duvet,
mock my seven year
You can sleep on clouds.

Turning my door handle, grinding marbles.
Quietly, quietly,
Oil it.

On my hallway walls, projections:

your pupils widening in five am darkness
your hands, sweeping across my mattress

January 25, 2006

Saturday's Dream

The Living Gifts

J and I have similar eyes for the
shelves of Christmas gifts.

“ You’re permitted to look at them, sometimes to touch.
You’re certainly never to sniff. ”

I whisper, “ Stepmother? You know, J is my lover?
If we stay here in Harvey Nick’s
I’m afraid we’ll find that he may lose his mind.
Look- his cheekbones are starting to twitch.”

So of course she slips in the next morning
disguised as her thin-wristed maid
to discover our ribboned, odourless gifts
and our bed on the floor, unmade.

“Ahem. Mistress says to remind you
that it’s coming on half past one.
They’ve driven past scenery. They’ve met Mussolini.
You’ve slept through all of the fun.”

J and I have similar eyes for the
carefully closed door.
Left to ourselves with no gift-laden shelves
we do what we were doing before.

But the windows are quietly expanding.
The ways of the Pennines shine in.
Against glass, we say “ If she’d vanish today
we’d be out there running, running! ”

The maid is here in our room
and J has grabbed hold of my hand.
There’s carpet beneath my travelling feet
then warm, soft sand.

We dive into the water
Into colourful fishes that sing
Little ones nip at our opening lips
Fat ones glide past our skin

“ This sea is not green
This sea is not blue
or Cupid, dancing on e
This sea is not him, or J, or you
This sea is not one but three ”

I splutter up to the surface light
On the waves is a hazardous fleet.
Sixteen oriental catamarans with
fluttering parakeets.

Diving under the ornate boats
as slick as a joyful otter –
I know it’s J by the sanguine way
he dodges the oars in the water

“ This sea is not green
This sea is not blue
or Clyde, trawling for Bonny
This sea is not him, or J, or you
This sea is not one but three ”

I follow. I dive. I just stay alive
through a maze of patterned oars.
Then deeply I swim with a wide, pearly grin
much colder than before.

“ This sea is not green
This sea is not blue
or flashing with Snow White’s keys,
This sea is not you or you or you
and you are not I or Me ”

She opens her eyes to the smell of perfume
She’s been waiting her turn, in a cue
She must have dozed off. It’s a dusty old room.
At least there’s an ocean view.

“I’m going to dance the Rumba,
with apricots in my ears.”
She finds herself staring into the eyes
of a long forgotten peer.

“Tell me- what’s your song? and what do you think:
blue lip gloss or green?”
It smells of pepper. Our swimmer remembers
the horror of the scene.

“You mustn’t dance! You mustn’t sing!
Stop twirling! Don’t you see?
She’s been given enormous olives, un-stuffed,
by a giant from Italy! ”

She turns her sparkling cheek to the line.
“I don’t believe you” Her tear runs by
and changes colour. As it bleeds
“ I don’t believe you” both her eyes
are gushing blood. As she staggers aside

it spurts at a red-head, doing the splits.
She topples onto her fluffy tits.
Their singing falters. They stop and stare.
They look into their handbags. What’s in there?

They pull out their phones. Flash! Flash! as she bleeds.
Identical photos on Nokia screens.
They look- their mouths open. Their eyes grow wide.
Screams hang on tight-ropes, silent inside.

They lift up their phones. Flash! in their own eyes
and run with their pictures in front of their faces,
abandoning their cue for Caucus races.

The Stepmother’s footsteps are shaking the floor,
our heroine grabs at two hands.
There’s carpet beneath their travelling feet
then warm, soft sand.

She shuts the door, tight. They run down the beach
to a dip in the warm, soft ground.
The surge of the depths with their mingling breath
and a curious, whistling sound.

“ This sea is not green
This sea is not blue
or Swarming with John Donne’s fleas
I’m not Chang or his motley crew
but a monkey, dreaming of thee ”

Beaming out of a patterned canoe
in oriental array,
with gel in his hair and eating a pear
and singing a bit – is J

J and I have similar eyes for the
whimpering circus girls.
I let go of their hands to sprint through the sand.
He kisses my wrist like an Earl.

“ Just what have you been doing, then? ”
He gives me a bite of his pear.

“Oh, I met a captain. He asked me on board
for his party. I thought you were there-

I stole you some brandy. ” I cradle the gift,
laughing, and tip it back.
It smells of orchids and sticky tar.
He throws me his pirate hat.

January 22, 2006


The Man of Culture

Five fifteen:

It’s hard to avoid the roots. Eventually I find a comfortable spot, if wet, and lean my back against the fir tree. It’s not half as bad as when it drizzled at ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Besides, at my age I like a performance to be a little less romantic. This set, for example, is challenging. It appears as though they’ve smashed thousands of bottles into shards and scattered them, perfectly equally, across the lawn. There is a single, tasteful street lamp at centre left stage- I remember the terms from ‘Drama at Durham’. In fact, if I narrow my eyes and shift slightly from side to side, I could bet the light catches five thousand of the glittering edges. Nigel would up me on the figures, no doubt. ‘Seven million’, he’d whisper, ‘Maybe more’, not taking his eyes off the expanse of glistening lawn. He turned his back on me yesterday evening, in the pretense of filling up his kettle. ‘What’s the performance? ‘Dawning’, is it called? Personally, I wouldn’t go to a play with a title like that’. It seems he’s terrified of the cold.

‘Leamington Park, facing Priory Terrace a kilometre in the distance. Third fir tree from the left, before the park bench.’ I’m in the correct seating. Then why are the branches obscuring the view? I increasingly find these directors to be, shall we say, of ‘diminutive stature’. I can imagine him now, a fiery dwarf of a man, clapping his hands at the finished set, his mind too tiny to admit the prospect of a six foot audience member. Actually, in the spring I was forced to telephone ‘Tate Modern Customer Enquiries’ to inform them that the leg room in their showing of ‘Pierre Untied’ was ridiculously minimal. They told me, thank you for your concern, that the seating had been arranged for purposefully claustrophobic effect…. Come to think of it, there is something peculiarly striking about the very tips of these fir branches. It’s almost as if my eyes, staring straight ahead at the lawn, have been marked by dry, black brush strokes. Yes! Of course! The director is making a self-referential comment. It is implied that his painters ran out of ink by the time their brushes could get to the very tips of the fir branches. The creative ingenuity reconciles me, partially, to the dry cleaning bill for my Burberry trousers. If only they had mentioned the possibility of damp on the programme. However, these observations make me, day by day, less attractive to Marianne.

Six thirty-five:

They are, ever so slowly, brightening the lighting. Nigel would know, but I’m sure it can’t be manual, as regular as it is. They must have ordered in a machine. It has been gradually washing a blue colour over the dark warmness that suffused the scene initially. I’m aware of their intention. They’re manufacturing the semblance of an all embracing bruise. Theatre thrives, so I’ve been told, on anticipated conflict. A wind blows from somewhere across the lawn. I’m unable, somehow, to draw my collar closer to my chin. The slightest movement will release the tiny shivers I’ve been feeling, filing up in ranks along my spine. It’s too cold to think clearly. I won’t recommend this play. The lower of the fir branches, to my right, waver just above the ground. I imagine, although I’m not sure if it’s meant, that I’m in an upside down sea. The more I look at the branches, the more they appear like seaweed, swaying just below the surface of the water. I can feel their need for air. What morose characters, pointlessly asking the ground for sunlight. What a perverse, sorrowful performance.

As I watch, sweet sounds begin to adorn the air. The director has made the birdsong unnaturally sharp. It’s been pitched to resonate in different chambers of the head. I feel a blue tit, tickling just behind my left ear. As I listen, a magpie begins to scratch my upper cranium as if with one nail, unhurriedly. I wish I’d brought boiled sweets with me. I’d crunch them as loudly as I could. This music has intolerable precision. Looking around for some sort of distraction I come eye to eye with the white shell of a conker, laying by my right boot. The presumptious dwarf does not, evidently, own a copy of the ‘Collins Guide to British Trees’. I have ceased, long ago, to expect authenticity from modern art. Shining in the dim light, the conker shell seems carved out of the skeleton of a bird. Is it these noises, effecting my natural associations? No, I’m very much reminded of the ongoing display of Teradactyls in the Natural History Museum. I was there with Marianne, slowing my pace ever so slightly. ‘Look’, I had intoned, gesturing towards a delicate skeleton, ‘Eternally fixed, but so effortlessly breakable’. I left her at home, the sky outside just beginning to grow warm with light, sleeping. Sliding my finger into the conker, the object melts. It’s fragile still, but wonderfully soft inside. My finger feels at home. I close my eyes. I’m stroking her neck.

Ten minutes past Eight:

The play stares at me with a mute, accusing gaze. How long have I been dozing? A line of mist stretches across the lawn, like the mould that grows on peaches. The street light has dimmed to a faded glowing ring on the backdrop, like an accidental tea stain. I would give anything for a mug of Earl Grey. I’m too exposed for comfort. It feels as if the play is applying its powder, preparing itself for another showing. I can imagine what it will be like: more tight lipped, certainly, but with the same un-ending tension. I have no desire to see it. A sound of glass bottles being tumbled together and smashed affirms my guess that the performances are circular. It comes from across the lawn from Priory Terrace and strikes me as insultingly unprofessional. Jumping up from the ground I brush my trousers down and stride across the dew. The reviews flit through my mind. ‘Trapped in loquacious inertia, bleakly humorous’. I disagree, at times, with Nicholas de Jongh’s verdicts but Paul Taylor from ‘The Independent’ praised it as ‘An accomplished, largely persuasive revival’. I’m sure that was the phrase. Looking back, the fir tree has regained its spatial awareness. It is no longer in danger of cascading downwards into pools of ink. Everything seems to have dried, shrunk and lost significance. The blur of the traffic occupies the air. I here the smashing of glass again. Nothing can be done about the damp patch on my trousers. I stride over the road towards the sound.

The man is manoevering a green dustbin into the glinting vice of a truck.


‘All right?’

He doesn’t turn his head, or shift his eyes.

‘Sorry. Could you tell me what’s in that dustbin?’

It clunks into the mechanism and he faces me, wiping hands on jeans.

‘Glass, I should hope’.

He starts off for the other bin on the pavement- a black one this time.
‘Although you can’t tell. People put in all kinds.’

I breath in, preparing to speak deliberately.

‘Starting a bit early, don’t you think?’

Over the shoulder, he shoots me a prize winning grimace.
‘Old biddies always complaining about the noise I make. You want to write to the boss, feel free’.

I follow his flippant gesture to the side of the truck, aware that he meant some kind of slur to me, and copy down ‘R.P.T. Cpt. 11 Cork Road, Hambleton, Surrey, England’ into my personal organiser.

‘Could you direct me to the nearest post office, please.’

‘Take the left down here, when it comes to a junction. It’s about half an hour, mate.’

I come to a village post office with a yellow door. My watch tells eight forty. It may be serving already. I push the door and it swings open, ringing an unpleasantly bird-like bell. A woman in her late forties appears from a back door.

‘Hello.’ I think my wallet has change. Let’s see.

‘Could I buy a first class stamp please, and an envelope.’

‘Certainly sir. I’ll just open up the till. You’re the first customer.’

She slides up the glass barrier.

‘First class, you say’.

The envelope is pushed through. A stamp is torn from the sheet and her fingers push it underneath the barrier. It rests in the hollow, blue face downwards.

I take it and pay the woman. Sliding my wallet into my trouser pocket with my back towards her, I lick the stamp and press it on the paper. Printed on the face of the stamp is the blue, bare ass of a baboon.


The Man of Culture trains himself to spend his leisure time valuing his body parts. The corresponding values depend on how many people refer to each body part in each day. Cheeks usually come high in the charts because the Man of Culture often blushes. His knees, for example, are hardly ever mentioned.


During the trial, Ammut swallows the Man of Culture’s knees.


The Man of Culture’s blushing cheeks.


In the religion of the Ancient Egyptians, life is dominated by Ma’at - the law of justice, order and balance. Ma’at is symbolised by the Feather of Truth. In death, the deceased is tried. His earthly knowledge is displayed before the Court, overseen by Thoth, the ibis-headed God of Wisdom. At the end of the trial, the deceased man’s heart is placed on a scale and weighed against the Feather. If the Feather outweighs the heart, the deceased has led a righteous life and may join the afterlife. If the man’s life on earth has made his heart heavy, Ammut, the God with crocodile head and hippopotamus legs, will devour his heart. In this way, Ammut, the Swallower of the Damned, consigns the man to a second death which is eternal oblivion.

The Painter

Painter looked at the mountain
And the mountain looked
Or so he thought, in the wind
Her slopes were huge and icy
The mountain looked on
Painter, cried the falling leaves
Look at the mountain
We are shrubs by the river
Look at our stones and see
We are limited

Painter looked at the small boy
And the small boy looked
Or so he thought, in the store
His fingers were curled and soft
The small boy looked on
Painter, cried the local store
Look at the small boy
We are dust behind the shelves
Look at our tins and see
We are limited

Painter looked at the girlfriend
And the girlfriend looked
Or so he thought, in the bed
Her eyes were blue and hazy
The girlfriend looked on
Painter, cried the blood stained sheets
Look at the girlfriend
We are cracks in the ceiling
Look at our hairs and see
We are limited

At noon, Painter was painting
And the mountain was
Or so he thought, on the page
Her slopes were ‘bianco white’
The mountain was not
Painter, cried the boy’s fingers
You see through ‘pale cream’
Your eyes make other mountains
Look, your pupils are stones
Are you limited?

Painter left for the co-op
And the boy had left
Or so it seemed, in the aisles

By the tins, no soft fingers
The boy left nothing
Painter, cried the girlfriend’s sheets
You think without dust
Your mind makes other children
Look, your skull is cracking
Are you limited?

Painter ran to the girlfriend
And the girl’s eyes ran
Or so he thought, with his paint
Her neck was wet and scarlet
The girl’s eyes ran red
Painter, cried the girlfriend’s tears
You look for a boy
We are colour with no brush
Look at our tracks and see
We can break limits
At dusk, Painter loved the girl
And the girlfriend loved
Or so it seemed, in the dark
Her limbs were blue and hazy
The girl’s love created
Painter, cried the girl’s body
Look at my black hairs
I’m staining the sheets with blood
Look at my crack and see
I am your limits

At night, his hand grew heavy
Heavily entwined
Or so it seemed, in his head
With his lover’s soft fingers

They had merged at the joints
Girlfriend, cried the Painter-Man
Look at our fingers
They’re grey with dust from the store
Feel the soft flesh and know
We limit ourselves

The man ran to the mountain
And the girlfriend ran
So it was, in the sunlight
The leaves fell off their bodies
The lovers ran on
Lover, cried the girlfriend
Look at the mountain
We’re running in her shadow
Feel my fingers’ aching
We are limited


Painter gains the courage to hack off his right hand. He is free to paint, but only with his left hand – his second, less natural choice.


During the trial, Ammut swallows Painter’s discarded hand.


The mountain in Painter’s eyes.

Eliot says as a young girl I was Hamlet

Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear... It often occurs in adolescence: the ordinary person puts these feelings to sleep.

T. S. Eliot, ‘Hamlet and his Problems’.

I (the girl) was dominated by an emotion which was inexpressible, because it was in excess of the facts as they appeared. I hate him I hate him I hate him I hate him And the supposed identity of myself with the girl in my diary was genuine to this point: that the diary girl’s bafflement at the absence of an objective equivalent to her feelings was a prolongation of the bafflement of myself in the face of an artistic problem. I’m your problem. Look at me. I’ll eat your heart in the marketplace. Expose you for what you are. That I fear you raping me, hitting me. Remember when I was up against the difficulty that my disgust was occasioned by my father, but that my father was not an adequate equivalent for it; my disgust enveloped and exceeded my father, what would you do if I was drowning? If you were watching on the shore and I was drowning with my eyes so wild? It was thus a feeling which I could not understand; I could not objectify it, and it therefore remained to poison life and obstruct action. None of my diary girl’s actions could satisfy it; and nothing that I could write could express her for myself it is an azure evening: the sky flashes like the inside of a jewelled locket, popped open for my widening eyes, my own wet lips. For my father, downstairs, it is ‘comedy night’. Laughter comes out of his mouth, comes echoing up the stairs and it is not laughter. If he could hear it, if he could hear himself, he would stumble into the kitchen and take the knife from its comfortable home inside the varnished jar by the butter puffs, the oranges (Blood! the fearful blood!) and happy, and achingly sad- I would put my ear to my bedroom carpet. The hight, the levity of the girl from my diary, her repetition of phrase, her puns, were not part of a deliberate plan of dissimulation, but her form of emotional relief. In her character is the buffoonery of an emotion which could find no outlet in this constant tuneless whistling and the sound of his dry fingers rubbing together in her actions; and I want to silence it. Silence for him and for myself it was the buffoonery of an emotion which I could not express in art.

November 19, 2005

The Availiability of Sugar

The tip of your scythe screams
energy in the sun.
Sweat dims your eyes.
Uncaring I keep step
by your side. I smile
until you smile and I am
walking in your life.

You stop me at the gate
and say ‘I think you’re sweet’
I feel it sting your lips
so rarely used.

I see you, spade in hand,
sounding out the word.
Searching in the dirt
for the dimming sun.

You fucked a whore last spring,
sweating in the darkness.

But I bring your supper
in a canvas sack.
I see your scythe flashing
from the summit of the hill
and I sense that she is nothing.

Grass is cold, beneath.
The rhythm of a scythe.
After this, you press my cheek
and frown. ‘You should stay home.
You musn’t catch the flu.’

A fire in the stove.
You and I slit the fish.
I slide down the belly
while you insert the knife
between the skin and skeleton.
We flip it, see, away.

  • * *

Your ‘Woolworths’ badge shines out
a question. Why outside?
After our shifts
we can do anything.
It catches in your eyes
and lights the sparks in mine.
We’re here for our pleasure.

Why in a field?
You say ‘I think you’re sweet’
I force myself to smile,
my lips curling upwards.

Ra-ra skirt.
I selected it judiciously.
Slaving at the check-out
I know your eyes wander.

The poster on your ceiling,
a girl in a field.

Bunny girls aren’t real,
they're simply for your pleasure.
She’s passive with her sugar.
You need me (with my badge)
to be a little closer.

I’m wet on the outside.
Abruptly it arouses you.
In, out, slamming.
I visualize a till and
Swallow the pill at home.

Two fish fillets slide,
solid, on a tray.
‘Oh God- you don’t like fish.’
‘Mm… fillets aren’t as gross’
Silently, I turn away.


When the Lumiere Brothers brought cinema to society in eighteen sixty five the dangerous effects of the medium were palpable. ‘Arrivee d'un train en gare a La Ciotat’ saw audiences screaming in their seats, believing that the train itself was about to plough into the theatre. What was realised more gradually was the peculiar sense of alienation invoked by the filmed image. ‘The Kiss’ was perhaps cinema’s first taste of the actress, fragmented and rearranged through the mechanical eye of the lens, now presented as an object like any other object. Walter Benjamin explored the inherently shocking nature of the moving image in his ‘Illuminations’. According to Benjamin, the diligent film watcher is so disturbed that he must become Baudelaire’s ideal vision of the modern artist - possessing the ‘vision of a child accompanied by nerves of steel’.

I peer into the gallery, keen
to step amid the murmurings of critics
disputing over the size of the screen.
I bend my head and enter. Rubbed clean,
the hardwood floor is studio–bright.
Figures cast by my travelling shoes
block out the mirrored light.

There isn’t any chairs. I scan the floor
for wooden shine, an opening in their bodies.
They make me think of a nut with a shrivelled core
being held softly, in the dark, by a muscular jaw,
quietly waiting to be cracked.
Respecting this as their desire,
I slip into the back.

It flashes. I find myself watching the moving sea
in waves of undulating grey, rushing
forward to savage white. Monochrome victory.
It leaves me bodiless. I think I’ve been
this way, at the opera before.
One night my blood was running low
in sugar and I saw

three hours of Verdi in a high enclave,
suspended in an audience box while falling
from my velvet seat onto the stage.
Now it seems impossible to gauge
why the floor won’t keep me here.
I’m falling up into the screen:
light and swiftly clear,

surging onwards into riotous white.
I’m sucked straight under, undulating grey.
I look away. I search the crowd. I might
discover in their faces calmer sight.
The critics seem to half–exist
in reiterated flares of light
that doubtfully persist.

It seems I’m in a fetishist’s dream.
I count their lit–up eyes, neutral objects
ranked in lines and shining in the screen.
I’m envious. Could I be so serene?
Looking down at my own hands
I find that in the screen–light they are
weirdly soft and wan.

I stare them out. Would hurting be unwise
to ascertain if they’re still on my side?
I’d make it so the pain didn’t rise
but lay dazzled in my flesh. They’d writhe
and I could watch them at my leisure.
I would feel an empathy
that is akin to pleasure.

I smile at this, but instantly a doubt
corrects my thoughts. What is this room?
Instinctively I bite my inner mouth,
sink in my teeth to get the blood–taste out
and feel it galvanise my eyes.
My curious trick prepares me.
I look back into the light.

It’s changed – a man treads a soft furrow,
pacing closer across a field of grain.
He appears Chinese. Voice–over blackly bellows,
seeming to speak of the past or ‘The Youth of Tomorrow’.
A subtitle flashes– disappears.
‘He hopes she will stay in Anhui. There are
so many lakes worth visiting’.

I watch entranced as if this were a beautiful girl.
I sway to her gestures, whispering Look.
Look, she’s inside out, she has unfurled.
She’s baring her insides to all the world
and still she doesn’t feel the cold,
opening her smile to a crowd of eyes
with not one secret told.

Inflamed by my desire, I study him.
Over the field he rustles on his jacket,
a riddle who’s exposing everything.
I feel the peculiar blessing that is dubbing.
Miles away, he moistens his lips
and fiddles with his jacket buttons.
I feel his fumbling grip

As if I’m underwater, there’s a peace
to this intrusive hearing, so increased
I slide into his jacket. Underneath
the picture flickers. I feel a sharp release
and see his skin. He’s in a pool,
facing the impassive echoes
on a diving stool.

His chest distends in slow, stretched ribs.
Content, he jumps. The board rebounds with a shadowy
splash. I’m cool in the water but can’t give up
my kicking legs. I rise with him and lift
my dripping arms up to the ledge.
Constrained to remember my own hands,
my skin, as if by pledge.

Is he restrained by my stare or by his own?
Is this the upshot of his city life?
Waking in the curtain–light alone,
immobile in the dusty sunbeams thrown
across his bed, how can he rise?
Heavy, brutal self–awareness
tattooed in his eyes.

I blink and try to come back to my senses.
My estrangement, I know, has worsened.
I think of lawns with well managed fences.
I think of lines with first person tenses.
‘I am sitting in a film.’
‘I am sitting in a room.’
‘I feel ill’.

Looking back the shot is of a hand
sliding, slowly, down her jacket seam.
Surrounded by the silk of her waist–band
in his fingers I am smoothing round
her middle, her circumference. Mewing
like a cat on heat she is
scarcely, slightly moving.

Elation. Everything I feel is pure.
No guilt is here to slow my transformation.
Gliding I am laid bare to the world,
around, around the waistband of the girl.
A thought slides in. Am I the upper hand?
Will I always, always move?
Painfully sensitive, I can

hear, with grateful ears, a weaker wave.
A buzzing but insistent frequency.
(The lowest current that the screen–light gave.)
Tuning in, instead of being saved,
I’m confronted with a vision
of a flick knife at my throat.
It’s my interrogation.

Tell me. Now. What do you make of these?
They’re a pair of panties, hanging from a wire.
And? They oppress the frame. Every crease
is sculpted in hues of grey. They hang there. Please.
And this? What is it? A hallway clock.
Go on. Tell me. How does it seem?
I see an average clock.

It’s possible that the second hand is slow.
Yes, it seems lethargic. A little drugged.
The arrow ticks – quivers – then it goes.
She strains to reach the light–bulb on her tiptoes.
Futureless, she’s at her ease.
Her toes sink into a feather mattress.
Wetting lips, he reads.

Inky snakes, glissading in a tank.
Stroking each other, two playful hands.
A moonlit yard. A thermometer, I think
and then a busy street where no–one blinks
but flashing lights go shivering past
with shops and indecipherable signs.
I click my heels, fast.

I spot her. The crowd in the bustling, shady street
hides school–girl socks up to her rapid knees
but through the gaps its possible to keep
my head filled with those socks, those moving feet

and then the camera stops.
Left in the crowd I keep her in my eyes.

She walks along the road, out of sight.

Out of shot, clicking her heels into the unintended

October 30, 2005

Crystal for sister

“Why not?” A glass poured in the shade of the garden.

She’s keen that it fills. I watch her eyes widen.

Her hand, on the table, is small in the shadows

overcast by the gesturing arms of the adults.

From woman to man, down a warren of viens

the crystal is passed through the web of the vines.

Her cheeks are flushing. Come back in our shelter.

I won’t build it without you. We're always together.

It’s brought to her lips – we swallow our youths.

Exposed to the sky I clutch my juice.

October 25, 2005

A doctor marries a prostitute

List of the essential words within most languages, devised by the linguist Morris Swadesh:

Long small woman man bird dog louse tree seed leaf root bark skin meat blood bone fat fire egg horn tail father fish hair head ear eye fingernail nose mouth tooth tongue foot knee hand belly neck breast heart liver drink eat bite see hear know die kill swim fly walk come lie sit stand give say sun moon star water rain stone sand earth cloud smoke ashes burn road mountain red green yellow white black night warm cold full new good round dry name

(each word is used once in the two versions of the same story)

The doctor's story

The woman barks, and bites his giving hand. As his neck reddens, he fishes for the sun in his heart. He knows. It was a seed, clouded, in her belly. A dryness, in blackness, like meat. Flying from her tongue is his name, as it is coming to his skin like fire.

A warm egg, white. Bleeding yellow. Eaten but not seen. The night is laying, tail in its mouth, in his two full eyes.

He walks through the leaves, the dogs, the round-eyed men and the birds. He is burning the road to his mountain. Who was he to ‘nose out’ which was the sleep that could kill? Which, that would rain on her ashes and stones, to be drunk by the roots in her sand?

But to kneel on her green earth. To say, this one is the moon, and this one is swimming in the cold water.

‘I hear,’ (her fingernails! her teeth!) ‘that I all but died’.

She is sitting. Her hair, feathery and cold. His mouth to a horn that is new and good.

.Drawing his head, so that his ear is at her breast. In her liver, the feet of a fat louse.

The prostitute's story

She sits through the night, naming the dogs, the red-eyed men walking and the birds. Smoking out her heart, until it is as dry as a seed or a feather.

Her white neck gives the drink to her belly and it clouds there, warmly. She is dreaming of fish and eggs to eat. Full and new, the long sun is burning the fat off the roads.

A round hand, laying on her knee. Then to green and to yellow, to see and to hear and to kill the heart as it flies, because from the stars come rain.

But up against a tree, with his tongue and teeth, swimming.

Leaf and bone. Stone and bark and sand. As he had said, he had come. He is a mountain. The water. The moon. How was she to die, in this good skin?

His fingernails rooting out head lice. Blood in her hair. Bitten as she sleeps. He noses out the fire of meat, down there. Horns and a tail. Ashes in her liver. Known, she can’t stand on her feet.

September 2023

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  • Nice to see these poems again, Niki. I really enjoyed reading them last year. by on this entry
  • stares by on this entry
  • okay red fish–net tights (zzz) Alice as knife… (yay) Alice as bird… (sweetie, lay off the crack)… by Rodney Eats Dildos for Dinner on this entry
  • Put link between the exclaimation marks. by on this entry
  • Is that the poem in your gallery? If so, i have to say i love it, except for the last three lines. Y… by on this entry

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