Street Fighter III
It was your birthday, we linked arms across the cobbles. The doorman winked at our skirts and an old man bought shots at the bar. When the music started, you kicked off your heels. The bouncer chased you to put them back on. The heat of the dancefloor made shadows of us all. Arms lifted, soft skin, the bitter taste of sweat. Fragments of light on our eyes, we sang smoke until we rattled the cracked tiles of the toilet stalls, urine soaked, hair sprayed and the indifference of lipstick-streaked glass. On the walk home you told me to fuck off, that I never understood you and that no one ever could.
I was always Ryu,
you were Ken. Blonde on red, fire
falling through your hands.
A Small Violence
He cast me as a lover
shaped my curves, moulded my breasts
spoke the language of me
unspun the argentite that lingered in my bones.
I became filigree
fettled with the stucco of his kiss.
Now time has hardened my soft lines
nursed me into alloy
desire stilled, patina cracked.
I stand head bent, body battle-burnished
hollow as bronze, barren as stone.
He held the shucking knife at an angle, grasped the shell firmly and plied the hinge. With a flick of his wrist, he rotated it expertly, prising the lips apart. It was almost as if it sighed, a gentle exhalation of salt-kissed air, as it opened itself to the light.
“Look at the marbling, the plump firmness of the flesh”. He pointed with the blade, and I studied the smooth undulations intently.
All I could see were the waves, how the small boats flecked out of the harbour at dawn. The light shifting and changing with every break in the clouds, carving colours across the surface of the sea. Violet, coral, lazuli, a stained-glass horizon licking the edges of the brightening day.
Nets go down, knotted lungs expanding and contracting over the beds. The oysters are lifted, plucked from darkness by gossamer threads, pouring across each other in the clamour of the net. After the breach, each one changes from gnarled slate into the most delicate flaring of glass, layers of aragonite shaped within the crucible of the sea.
I opened my mouth, let all the succulence of its mantle cascade, wing-tipped as the feathers of a salt-engulfed bird. It scattered sunlight on my tastebuds, pinpricks of nacre that glowed iridescent, I was enveloped by the opalescence of pearl.
Satisfied he sat back. “Nobody forgets their first one”. I nodded, holding the taste of the sun-struck waves on my tongue, for as long as I could.
After A Woman Bathing in a Stream by Rembrandt
How he devoured her, that old master…
the quiver of uncovered skin, lily-white against the stroke
of water upon her thighs. The inviting penumbra
of a lifted shift, ripples inching upwards,
red with the knowledge of refracted sighs.
A woman stands in sea water, gooseflesh blooms
over the mottled iris of her shivering skin.
The striations of childbirth cascade, cracked as the
umbo of a broken shell. Her swimsuit is too tight.
My heart, overlook these earthbound blemishes
and love me, as the water loved her.
A turlough blooms each winter at the bottom of our road. It used to be my road, when I was a child. A stone-chipped, meandering strait that brought me from the clamour of the main road, up the craggy hill to home. Now home is not that home anymore but still I return, seasonal as the swallows that pass above my head.
And there it was today, a swirling alloy of groundwater rippling across the bone-thirsty karst. It heaved, a cloud-hungry surface that would not be stilled, hiding rock and soil and grass beneath its glittering tongue. It called to me as I steered the metal hull of my car along the road, whispering soft vowels into the wing-mirror on the empty passenger side.
I turned my eyes away, glanced at the sky that draped itself around the rising tarmac in front of me. I could have cried at its beauty, how the light poured through a crack in the clouds. A chrism of winter sunlight spreading out across the fields, pearly and soft as the heat of newborn skin.
A bump at the wheel and I felt the steering jerk. My attention snapped back as I re-set my course and checked for damage. I thought of the gate and drive-way and gables ahead of me. The familiar smells and the slow declination of time. The silence that belies a welcome, the wish to be able to do more.