Sisterhood of the Shallow Breath

Red sadness is the secret one. [A]nd a curator once attached this tag to it: Because of the fragile nature of the pouch no attempt has been made to extract the note.


The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.


Subtle, almost as though a • little phrenological, slender fingers of • dissonant whispers lift my sea • of hair with a pull • gentle as the moon’s on • a lunatic’s head, rumour nudges • her wings along the edge • of my scalp’s dusk warmth, • were this its course’s terminal • the setting sun would make • scarce its more œconomical scorch • to cinder under these locks • what secret cursive those lips • of strangers press from afar, • poisonous kisses dripping scars of • winter from fingertips, each curse • each inquisitor says caresses Braille • where there is none, and • for some reason, seems to • believe in a tale she • •


herself has had fun spinning, • looming over my bed succubus-esque, • insular in her purpose, that • is, to interpret, what my • dreams must reveal if only • she and her team of • gossiping intruders were possessed of • their key, how visitors in • the night never seem to • find out until after they • have gone that the entire • hour they soured the milk • of reluctant smiles we desired • them to go, to leave • immediately, no way through, though, • but allowing nuance to flow • and, if its hinted road • of spilled silk followed, influence • the intention of another through • one’s own, so here I • •


lie, tied inextricably to the • umbilical knives of those by • whom I am despised, dined • upon throughout ignoble night, reclined • under cyclical roses peddling scythes • as antidotes to time whose • season it is to deny • and devour those his beard • and robe fall for, unfurled • nude before the sleeping world, • blind but not deaf, awareness • enough to get, to find, • to pick up on, how • I hear again, in my • counterfeit of sleep, what I • listened to then, a stir • of lecherous echoes, coins of • chaos bent under the elbows • of crones, harlots not so • far off squatting at the • •


crossroads, trading haloes in a • game of thrown bones, haggard • to their marrow peccadilloing suggestions • the sonorous hisses of which • lick lashes against my resistance • to them, the passion of • an astral attack pilfers from • my pillow all comfort which • once filled with innocuous feather • that plump sack, could it • be my sisters? I ask • no one aloud but allow • silent thought to task this • bitterness to assess, damage shallows • my breath as my saddest • memory surfaces, a severed head • bobbing in the mirror of • a well, Medusan double Hydrating • into thirds, am I her? • Another monster sculptured in alabaster…

1Mary Ruefle, “Red”, in My Private Property, published at Seattle by Wave Books in 2016; page 47.
2Sylvia Plath, “Tulips”, Stanza 7, Line 49, in Ariel, published at London by Faber and Faber in 2010; page 13.