Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Published by Dennis Gould (2002)
after Frida Kahlo
When I came to you last night in my thorn necklace
with the dead hummingbird, its wings
were flying me back to the day of the accident.
When the moment came for you to enter me
I grinned at the sugar skulls and wax doves
and tried not to think of the crash,
the handrail piercing me like a first lover,
and me bounced forward, my clothes torn off,
my body sparkling with the gold powder
spilt from a fellow passenger. In that slow silence
it’s not true that I cried out. I only thought
about the toy I’d bought that day,
staggered about searching for it, before I collapsed.
They laid me on a billiard table
and saw to the wounded, thinking me dead.
And afterwards, when I came back to life,
they held a Mass to give thanks. As soon as
I could walk, the first thing I did was go
and buy another toy to replace the one I’d lost.
Just as tomorrow night I’ll try again
to get this sex thing right, and the night after that.
Long before we tie the knot, Divorce moves in.
He sits on the naughty step, patting his knees.
Crowned in towel, I step out the shower
and he’s there, handing me a raffle ticket.
He plays kick-about with the neighbourhood kids,
chalks crosses on their doors and buys them Big Macs.
Socking his fist into the bowl of his hat,
he’d kicked the gate wide, that sunny day in Leeds.
My mum was incredulous, “she’s only ten,
she can’t possibly have made contact with you.”
He clocked my young face and handed me his card.
‘Call me when you fall in love, I’m here to help.’
Perhaps he smelt something in my pheromones,
a cynicism rising from my milk-teeth.
With gum, he stuck notes on Valentine’s flowers:
tiny life-letters in factual grey ink.
The future cut two keys for a new couple.
On my twenty-first, Divorce took the spare room.
He loves to breathe down the spout of the kettle,
make our morning coffee taste mature and sad.
He waits by the car, slowing tapping Tic-tacs
down his throat. We’ve thought about stabbing him,
but he’s such a talented calligrapher:
our wedding invitations look posh as pearl.
He bought us this novelty fridge-magnet set,
a naked doll with stick-on wedding dresses.
Divorce and I sometimes sit in the kitchen,
chucking odd magnetic outfits at the fridge.
He does the cooking, guarding over the soup,
dipping his ladle like a spectral butler.
He picks me daisies, makes me mix-tapes, whispers
‘call me D,’ next thing he’ll be lifting the veil.
After the honeymoon, we’ll do up the loft,
give Divorce his own studio apartment.
We must keep him sweet, my fiancée agrees,
look him in the eye, subtly hide matches,
remember we’ve an arsonist in the house.
The neighbours think we’re crazy, pampering him
like a treasured child, warming his freezing feet,
but we sing Divorce to sleep with long love songs.
I always felt you were too good for me;
You slayed my nightmare dragons lightly.
When you did not turn to gaze on me,
I told myself you were Orpheus showing self-restraint,
Yet still it hurt, for I wanted you to want me stupidly.
I would gladly have fallen into Hell
For a hungry glance off you.
But I was nothing, easily injured and unworthy,
So I created my own mythology, to be your equal.
Fairy-tales grew in dark forests on my tongue,
And you listened enchanted
As I encrusted myself with rubies and bravery.
It was easy, I am good at telling stories...
I told you I could call up storms of butterflies and violets.
I told you twelve princes were pursuing me,
and performing dangerous tasks to win my hand.
I told you I rose from death seven times and, laughing,
flicked the gold flames of my hair into the faces of my killers.
I told you I loved you enough to bear crows pecking my eyes,
And enough to stick an asp in my bra.
I slayed your love easily; a clumsy, mortal accident.
You cowered at my majesty,
The thought of those ragged bodies lapping over my rocks.
Ironic, when my magic is clearly not as potent as yours.
My stories convinced you like the words of a prophet.
You say you are not perfect like I think you are.
You say I am angel-pure and your hands would tear my wings.
You say you do not deserve oceans of white roses.
You say you do not deserve rooms full of sunbeams -
They blind you, as thorns do - I am too much brightness.
And besides, if you gave me the kiss, the kiss of true love,
It would not awaken me, and no-one would change shape.
You would be an anti-climax.
You would disappoint.
It is my own fault, I was my own Genesis.
Now I must pay a price greater than to always hold the sky up.
I must watch you retreat from me, dropping no crumb trail;
Watch you leave me without thread in this labyrinth I made.
I tell you that I lied, but you no longer believe me.
I will always be a giddy goddess to you;
A mermaid longing for legs that will only bring varicose veins,
When she should be plucking pearls out of the sea-bed.
I shout: “No! I’m only a stupid, stupid girl.
I love you for your flaws, they are what make you perfect.”
You shake your head.
You tell me that in every myth there is a grain of truth.