You wore a white Bonds t-shirt to bed last night. A plain, white, no-nonsense Bonds t-shirt and I knew it was over. I heard the death knell. And when you asked me if I was Emily Dickinson’s ear I nodded. Solitary. Solitaire. Solipsist. ‘For whom does the bell toll?’ you asked that afternoon. Campanologists? Two in Campagna? Campaniles? ‘It tolls for thee.’ R.I.P. my lover. R.I.P. my van winkle. Rip out my heart. Wrap it in your white t-shirt and bury it beneath your floorboards. Still beating. My little drummer boy. You can beat me but I won’t be your fiendish queen, my butcher. My blood on your t-shirt will form a scarlet letter. Spot Out damn spot! You wore a white t-shirt to bed last night when all I wanted was to be stuck to your back. When all I asked was to peel myself off you in the morning and mount your erect compass needle. But now we are done. Donne. And you peel me like a grape. I slither out of my skin. Skinner. Skin me alive. I thought we were conjoined. Destined to travel in circles until we met again, in the middle. Until we found our core. But like Nabokov’s apples, all you manage to achieve is to tempt me with repetition. When I am only your dystopian Eve. There can be no valedictions here. So now our lives are cotton. And although cotton breathes, it is also the sarcophagus of our relationship. Embalmed memories. But I promise to dig you up. Like Heathcliff. Or Rossetti. I promise to unbind you and gather you in my arms. Skin on skin. My sweat will be our glue as I rip off that t-shirt and bond you to me one last time.
I wish I had been painted by Millais. Maybe not as Ophelia in a tepid bath. Perhaps as Lady Macbeth. Or Titania. Or Portia. I used to make you sit on a little wooden stool and pretend you were painting me. Stroke after stroke rasping against the canvas. I would unravel my strawberry plaits and stare at you. Sherry eyes. Corsage at my neck. Picking up the small crumbs of wedding cake and passing them through my gold ring. Nine times. But you still didn’t get the hint. And so I am suspended in that moment. Forever bridesmaid. I can’t be Effie to your Ruskin. So blot out the canvas with grey. Euphemia’s hagiography turns on a wheel and a bear, but I can’t be your martyr. Writhing in my skin, I call out to Rossetti to paint me. I make you call me Guggums and cling to wild heartsease. We both know the laudanum comes later. So you paint me. Regina Cordium. Hooded lids. Heart shaped pendant. There are two still babies in the shadows. One within and one without. Broken hearted, I become your posthumous Beatrice. Dig me up Dante! Exhume me. Consume me. Shift the soil between us and gather me in your arms. Chase your journal of poems around my coffin with your fingertips as you hold me. Let me hear your mew of pleasure when you have it. At last. My copper hair fills the empty space. But the worm’s hole in your journal eats away at your heart.
William Carlos Williams was a genius. And he has my lover’s initials. Or rather my lover has his initials. I often eat the plums that were in the fridge. But I don’t expect to be forgiven. Not everything depends upon that. Or the wheelbarrow of promises that still lies at the bottom of his heart. That’s just a vain hope. My lover likes plums. The ones with the tough skins and the scarlet flesh. Not the yellow. We like the same food. Except for chops. I won’t eat lambs to the slaughter. Once I was called a ‘goo-goo-eyed’ vegetarian. Which basically means I won’t eat anything cute. With big imploring eyes. Because it would be almost like me eating myself. Baby cows are cute. Pigs are cute. And lambs are definitely cute. Even mutton dressed as lamb. So they are all out. But I eat chicken and fish and sometimes beef. If it isn’t veal. He lived on a farm once. So he hates sheep. He tells me that sheep are the stupidest animals ever. They deserve to be eaten. He even tells me the story about how sheep follow each other in straight lines and that the earth becomes shiny and solid beneath their feet. And he and his brothers would ride along their little tracks. On their bikes. Red bikes. Like that wheelbarrow in his faulty heart. One day he might even grow me some plums so that I can pick them and put them in our fridge. I want a red Smeg 473L fridge. I want my whole kitchen to be red. He draws the line at a red fridge. He has never heard of Smeg. Smeagol. Smaug, the dragon. He doesn’t believe in the nuance of sound. He doesn’t understand the importance of a big, red, expensive fridge. He thinks they are just for keeping things cold. Like plums.
My mother is a fish. I have buried her three times already, but the water table is high and she floats to the surface. I cleaned her, using scissors to cut anteriorly through the bones attached to her pelvic fins, but I can’t cross the river while her cloudy eyes are directed at the sky. The tackle box is full of the rusty hooks of untried catches. I take a pitted sinker and use the fishing line to weigh down her fleshy isthmus. There is water in my shoes but I can feel the stones rise beneath my feet.
You catch my breath as it floats under a room of words; it warms your palms before easing through the spaces between your fingers, rising like a High C. In this snuggery we are a fragment of ourselves; a line without an ending; a gap in the kerning. Between your sheets I am your skin and my heart; an ecstasy of limbs. When I leave your bed, my corpus haunted by your touch, I’m not sure what you will remember and how much time will smooth the edges of our ragged right margin.
You buy me a Royal Doulton Bunnykins eggcup for Easter; on its side, a picture of anthropomorphic field rabbits sheltering under a red umbrella. Your card says it’s to hold my boiled egg upright; for when I dip in the tip of buttery toast soldiers. But I’m not ready to eat your eggs; I don’t want to be another of your lovers, served deli-style at your kitchen bench. Instead I imagine that when my egg has cooked for four minutes in your saucepan; you turn and tell me I’m as perfect as that egg. But all I hear is ‘First Murderer: What, you egg!’ Ovum. Zygote. On Good Friday it rains and you take me to bed; my ovaries greet you, sunny side up.
A Room of One’s Own
You weigh me down. Like stones in a coat pocket. Until my incandescence is stifled and my ‘nugget of pure truth’ is stripped back to a room in my grandparents’ house in the suburbs where I once wrote poetry. The white desk is still there, pushed against the bay window. If I open the top drawer, I know that my old fountain pen will still be there. Bite marks on the lid from long days at school. The garish hippopotamus curtains are still too red. The carpet is more of an electric blue than I remember. A little fish of an idea becomes a cat without a tail. How do I write the space between my heart and my pen?