My Body is a wide house
Of bickering women, hearing
their own breathing
denying each other.
Nearest the door
ready in her black leather
is Vulnerable. She lives in the hall
her face painted with care
her black boots reaching her crotch
her black hair shining
her skin milky and soft as butter.
If you should ring the doorbell
she would answer
and a wound would open across her eyes
as she touched your hand.
On the stairs, glossy and determined
is Mindful. She’s the boss, handing out
Punishments and rations and examination
papers with precise
justice. She keeps her perceptions in a huge
album under her arm
her debts in the garden with the weedkill
friends in card-index
on the windowsill of the sittingroom
and a tape-recording of the world
which she plays to herself over and over
assessing her life
In the kitchen is Commendable.
The only lady in the house who
dresses in florals
she is always busy, always doing something
for someone she had a lot of friends. Her hands are quick and
cunning as blackbirds her pantry is stuffed with loaves and fishes
she knows the times of trains
and mends fuses and makes
a lot of noise with the vacuum cleaner.
In her linen cupboard, newly-ironed and neatly
folded, she keeps her resentments like
wedding presents- each week
takes them out for counting not to
lose any but would never think of
using any being a lady.
Upstairs in a white room is
my favourite. She is Equivocal
has no flesh on her bones
that are changeable as yarrow stalks.
She hears her green plants talking
watches the bad dreams under the world
spends all her days and night
arranging her symbols
never eats hamburgers
never lets anyone into her room
never asks for anything.
In the basement is Harmful.
She is the keeper of weapons
the watchdog. Keeps intruders at bay
but the others keep her
locked up in the daytime and when she escapes
she comes out screaming
smoke streaming from her nostrils
flames on her tongue
razor-blades for fingernails
skewers for eyes.
I am Imminent
live out in the street
watching them. I lodge myself in other people’s
heads with a sleeping bag
strapped to my back.
One day I’ll perhaps get to like them enough
those rough, truthful women
to move in. One by one
I’m making friends with them all
unobtrusively, slow and steady
slow and steady.