We live in my lungs.
You smoke. I don’t.
You set up an armchair in the corner,
bring your books and newspapers, lean back,
read and exclaim facts, something about the fall
of empires and the decline of women.
On the back of one of your magazines
a girl poses in a dress, straps
slipping down her shoulders,
something moving under her skin
as if it knew the place, something
I recognise like I recognise
the fire in my belly, burning
everything into threads of light,
sending smoke up through my eyes and mouth.
There is always another side to history.
In the factories where dress threads come together
the women hum to drown their hunger.
Art is a looking-glass.
I see myself in a painting, the one
in which the heroine’s breasts are like bruised apples
and a shadow watches from the window.
When the girl in the photograph – or
the one in the painting, for that matter –
fucks, there is a heat that does not stop.
Forget flowers. Imagine instead
a throw of black, blue, green and gold,
each string unravelling.
What you meant – when you mentioned
the decline of women – was
that empires nearing
the brink of collapse
make stars out of women’s eyes,
turn their bodies into metaphor.
Previously featured in Edinburgh Review 134