Portrait

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Paint me October yellow with its hush of leaves
clinging to branches, its startling reds
that burn with the promise of winter.
Those last days when the trees haunt
an Atlantic sky. Weary guests at
a fancy dress ball, swaying with the wine
and the lateness of the hour.

Let me wear glass slippers
and hide inside the pumpkin mask.
The three faces carved in the window
with their lurid grins and flickering candles.
Scoop out my insides. Make me hollow
as a skeleton. Draw my bones in chalk.
And if you must show my scars,
let them be written on water
as it flows under the weeping willow,
a ghost of a signature.

I am not fond of mirrors,
photographs, harsh reflections.
I’d rather be that trick of the light
in the far corner of a room
that was possibly an accident
or once painted white.
Show me not as a still life
but pouring seed through my fingers.
A scarecrow of a girl,
something of a vampire,
someone who has eaten fireworks,
perhaps the tiniest hint of a smile.

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The Myth of the Heron

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Already wise to my weakness for exaggeration,
you tell me it’s not a pterodactyl
flying past the window.
Though there is something prehistoric
about the sheer breath of its wing span,
the way it hangs suspended over
the red bruise of the tree
before swooshing away.
A timeless flying machine
against the deep blue of an October sky.

We discuss the pros and cons of wings,
how high you’d really like to go,
whether we should get ourselves
a TARDIS for Christmas.
As I tell you tales of dragons
and serpents and Sinbad clinging to the Roc,
I think there is a deep truth to these miracles.

The shepherd’s daughter who survives
till morning by shedding so much skin,
who holds the slimy, naked snake
in her arms and is not afraid.
For aren’t we all beautiful monsters,
struggling with cancerous demons,
dreaming our Icarus dreams?
The trick is to make extinction
the longest possible fall.

Prosthesis

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I have not felt lighter
so am doubtful when she says
it will give you a greater sense
of balance before slipping
the silicon into a white bra
and helping me with the straps
with that professional kindness
I have come to appreciate so much.
A kindness that says this is weird for you
but I do this every day for so many women
and it will be alright. Just a tug here
and a checking they’re straight
and no one will ever be able to tell
you went under the knife.

As I stare into the mirror,
I realise she’s right. I do feel
as if an absence I wasn’t even aware of
has been corrected. I step out
into the deep blue
of this glorious Indian summer,
filled with a sudden lightness
as if I could walk on water,
sprout miracle wings,
soar up into the September sunshine
and sing of my new found equilibrium.

Here’s a link to my commissioned poem for National Poetry Day – Coming Back