It was a time of velvet love,
revolution and Snakebite.
My mother gave me beige
polo necks and warned
of the dangers of touching.
My summer job yielded
a red dress from Bus Stop
with a plunging neckline
and a scalloped hem that swirled
when I twirled to Bowie and Bolan
alone in my room, rehearsing
my poses with a feather boa.
I met him on the landing of a cold
terraced in Queensbury, queuing
for the loo and giddy with homebrew.
He pretended to take my picture
with an imaginary camera, squinting
and clicking his tongue. You look like
what’s her name from Pan’s People,
he said as he kissed my neck. He wore
a peacock feather in his blonde locks
and a guitar with a tartan strap. His lips
were curvaceous like Bryan Ferry’s.
He called himself Fritz and a pacifist.
My mother was ironing father’s
socks, underpants and cotton shirts
when I got in, the steam clouding
the kitchen with a choking mist.
She didn’t look up when I gave her
the peacock feather. It’s pretty, I said. Some call it the evil eye, she replied.
Next day it was tucked behind her
gilded wedding photo on the shelf
with the candles and the broken clock.
urge to check I’m still
there strikes in public spaces.
When no-one’s looking I dip into my bag
for my compact mirror, green mother of pearl carved
with a dragon fly. Smooth, cool, it opens languidly
like a mermaid’s eye. I keep myself at arm’s
length to get the best view, either the top
or the bottom of my face. They don’t
make those mirrors big enough.
I can never see the
whole of me.
smoke and alabaster the purity of revelation
baby powder and snow east and west, dawn and evening
honey dew and mint cream the illusion of perfection
ivory and seashell surrender and treachery
old lace and linen the white knight
lavender blush and ghost dead-white faces
floral white and corn silk cowardice and cold
parchment and pointing the second stage of the Great Work
champagne and vanilla virgin sacrifice
cosmic latte and glitter mercury poisoning
magnolia and pearl the boredom of waiting
flax, eggshell and bone death rides a pale horse