Like Peonies, borrowing a garden.
The Peony Poppy stands four feet tall,
multifoliate heads in pinkish white
like stained bones, or red with a distinct
undertone of gold, a shimmering hue
that indicates a sun that we have never known.
I skid to a stop swerving the path,
my heels the breaks of my rickety bike.
I halt in a cloud of hot rubber and rust,
the burnt patch on my sweater
a dark eye above my occipital lobe,
Red Riding Hood blighted.
I’m bearing no food, save for my books,
a meal for the soul, a feast of aesthetics.
My body crouched in the dirt at the root
of the poppy stalks, round blossoms,
the colour of the insides of bodies,
a meal for the dead, alive and breathing.
Squatting in a borrowed garden,
moist dirt flecked on my thighs,
the old woman who owns this patch
-no one I know- shouts Wiltshire curses
I cannot understand. I recite a verse of Rossetti,
a sample from the Goblin’s Market; a taste
of luscious fruit, alien to her. This
is what becomes of us; mad women,
no grandmothers, starved for beauty,
who flail in the dust without family or love.
The front door slams, I have fifteen minutes
of quiet before whatever huntsman
she is whistling for comes wielding his axe.
Time enough to feast on this flesh.
I grasp a face of petals, soft as cheeks
in my hands, twist the fibrous neck,
drench my fingers in seminal blood.
Enough to quench my lupine appetites,
enough to sink my eyes in.
My nails are drenched in crushed light,
the colour of another world, palms washed
with an undertone of gold. This is better
than any redemption the old woman knows.
I smear myself with poppy juice,
grind cool petals into my brown hair.
I fill my bag with blossoms, soft
as the faces of dead children, smothering
my books. Whirling lights in the distance,
closing in. A barren old woman shudders
behind a barricaded door. I re-join my bike,
my burnt red hood flying, making my way
free from the visible world.