unpicking

As she perches on the cusp of a swingset,
the midday sun picks sweat from fingers
coiled with a mother’s love around
the flexing plastic trinket.

With trembling hands she unpicks the metal
from its casing, draws breath – she waits –
holds the oxygen in her lungs like two sacks
of captured bullfrogs, humming for release.

Repulsed by the starchy wholeness of her body,
her skin goads the flash of silver until
she is sewn together by the breakages –
her arms a tapestry of something
or nothing.

Every day she unpicks herself, maps the emptiness,
gridlike, above the sewage-system of her veins,
draws across the canvas of her skin, hollowing
herself like the clean scoop of a pumpkin.

Sunlight sticks the clothing to her back, heavy
as dead flesh, she folds herself in two – she waits –
her breath a quiver in the hot air, fragile
as skin-flakes, insubstantial as starlight.


This poem is set to appear in Parthian’s Cheval 10.