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23 . 1955, , -, , 2009 - . .. , , .. , 30 , .




Wearing Her Pearls, p. 64

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She’s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit’s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking glass
my red lip part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head… Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her skim hand reaching
for the case. Slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does… And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.



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River, p. 99

At the turn of the river the language changes,
a different babble, even a different name
for the same river. Water crosses the border,
translates itself, but words stumble, fall back,
and there, nailed to a tree, is proof. A sign

in new language brash on a tree. A bird,
not seen before, singing on a branch. A woman,
on the path by the river, repeating a strange sound
to clue the bird’s song and ask for its name, after.
She kneels for a red flower, picks it, later
will press it carefully between the pages of a book.

What would it mean to you if you could be
with her there, dangling your own hands in the water
where blue and silver fish dart away over stone,
stoon, stein, like the meaning of things, vanish?
She feels she is somewhere else, intensely, simply because
of words; sings loudly in nonsense, smiling, smiling.

If you were really there what would you write on a postcard,
or on the sand, near where the river runs into the sea?



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Nile, p. 32

When I went, wet, wide, white and blue, my name Nile,
you’d kneel near to net fish, or would wade
where I shallowed, or swim in my element,
or sing a lament for the child drowned when I was too deep,
too fast; but once you found, in my reeds,
a boy in a basket.
I gushed, fresh lake, salt sea,
utterly me, source to mouth, without me, drought, nought,
for my silt civilized —
from my silt, pyramids.
Where I went, undimmed, talented,
food, wine, work, craft, art;
no Nile, nil, null, void.
I poured, full spate, roared,
voiced water, calling you in from dust, thirst, burn,
to where you flourished; Pharaoh, firstborn…
now Cleopatra’s faint taste still on my old tongue.



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Anne Harthaway

‘Item I gyve unto my wife second best bed…’
(from Shakespeare’s will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas
where he would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses

on their lips; my body now a softer rhyme
on his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights I dreamed he’d written me, the bed

A page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,

dribbling their prose. My living laughing love —
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.






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Valentine, p. 121

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a liver.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loop shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.




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