Another of my elegies for impossible women, written on napkins in a restaurant when the woman I was meeting was very very late. Clearly a theme emerges…
Each of her stories was a labyrinth
You might find truth out, or poetic lies,
she thought as true and often were. Her eyes
as honest both ways and her smile as sharp
her teeth just catching flesh behind a lip
she stuck out, daring you to catch a slip.
Mostly you didn’t, only got a part
of any story, contexts drifting past
in tatters, til exhausted, at the last,
You thought she’d told you years of a short life
-more years by far than she had told you of,
more lives – as daughter, scholar, dancer, love
of men and women, skilled at holding back
in love, as truth. Her art was never coy
but told less than it said – hard to enjoy
if you thought its flayed skin and bloody bones
not staged, and bitter, brilliant mime of pain
cavorting madly and yet coldly sane.
She talked, and did not lie, of how tattoos
were ecstasy by inches, yet took pills
to numb the pain, yet for each pain she kills
Others, imagined, felt in sympathy,
affected, and yet bruising through soft skin
working their way through flesh and further in
and crumbling harsh into her skeleton
into the marrow.Pain avoided was a loan
she fully paid, each image of crushed bone
mirrored a truth she kept behind her eyes.
To boys was straight, to girls a total dyke
In-between truths weakness she could not like
whose world was absolute and never shades.
She could not walk to death without fierce cry
of Murder! Wildness not so much a lie
as one last drama torn from life in claims
that she’d been poisoned. Cruel to the man
who loved her, kinder to the art whose span
drew to its end in classical repose.
Restraint almost and delicacy too
from love and life, drama and art withdrew
to quiet sorrow, and calm gentle death.
Ghost! if you came to me one night in dreams
boasted how nothing stops you -that’s no lie
some find and love your books. Also, you wore
tight jeans, primrose with leopard spots, and more –
ones that your last girl says she saw you buy
Last time you spoke to me was truth, it seems.