Her words remain in the shadows. That is the plan but she’s forgotten or has never consciously known, so determined to get it right. It’s a fight to the death. She papers her walls with rejection slips. Pouncing on the occasional publication, her fury slobbers over those words already on the page drenching them in her pain… her pleasure… see, I told you so…. This is a way she can slither in. Only a rogue would deny her after all she’s given up. Another poet before, famous, whose Irish ancestry opens the world of the fey, chanting in a monotone he alerts them to more than the eyes can see and they plunge into an ocean of maybe.
A darkened room, electric blue with anticipation, they fringe the rim of her coffee table with letters, ‘yes’ at one end, ‘no’ at the other, shining up a brandy glass, setting it down on the epicentre. Spirits, please, are you there? Tell us how to quell this hovering rumble… At first the glass is still. Their fingers tremble. And then… And then… The glass prods the letters. Her mood is gloomy and dire. Each response shows her a funeral pyre. At last she hears him as sure as worms, her dead father drips in from the ocean and shakes out a warning. Only one of them can win. This unleashes her seething rage engaging the demon within. Must she follow the cue? Be no more than a wife, a daughter? Typing his script, licking envelopes, posting his words?
She does as she ought, as she’s been taught for long ago it was written, those who can’t do teach. So she does. Focused on this she ignores The Queen of Swords whose presence in his tarot readings she vehemently resists. The Queen is dark and sculpted. Until this his acolytes all have had round faces and fair swinging hair. She refuses a closer look at his book for fear of seeing behind each page a doe-eyed memory, the sweet taste of his first peach.
In the distractions of plump juicy babies, burying her nose in their soft stinky necks, she unwisely forgets the tainted wine, the unholy mix. She nests. Her sap gathers and gently streams. She listens to its babbling, letting this suppress her longing for him to hear only her song and forego the rest.
A temporary reprieve. Her children’s downy bodies grow and throw off their feathers. The space they leave crowds in and she shudders in a corner. She’s hungry again.
Save me she begs, but his head is turned away. Remembering the wise women’s advice, she offers her ears to him. It is not her ears that interest him.
She blames her body, looking at herself with a critical eye. Her breasts are no longer pert and round but sag and sigh. There’s nowhere to hide her ailing pride. She lets it all hang out, lets her hair down. Embarrassed by her forthrightness (she’s tried it on a friend), this other slinks away hoping she’ll quickly recover and there’ll be no dues to pay.
No lure is left to bait the hook. His sideway glances are in the opposite direction. His words, the very words which once had the force to lilt and make her swoon are like daggers in her marrow. It is the way they are delivered, she howls, scraps off the table, bones to the dog. She hurls her bell-jar high. It lands in his open mouth, slides down his throat to come to rest behind his heart.
This is the moment The Queen of Sorrow chooses to flesh out of the tarot pack. The queen’s sad beauty captures him. He falls into those soulful eyes, wallowing in the image he finds mirroring the deer he felled as a child – his first love – returned as a woman just as his dream prophesied.
Consumed with jealousy she screams at the house of cards, banging on the door. The queen gladly beckons her in. He hadn’t wanted her to know. She’s come by her own volition. They pass on the stairs; he is leaving as she arrives. The queen throws the door wide, offering her a sad-eyed smile. She has only herself to blame. Forced to see… she averts her eyes… to see… it’s as plain as the scar on her face… the queen’s belly is swelling with one of his poems.
Desolate, she sends the children away and sits at home, alone, devising the best way to make him pay. Too late to poison the peach, to sweeten the wine, she must divine the perfect plan. The walls breathe darkly. They whisper. They snigger. You are no longer lovely, my dear. Your words wither in your sighing breasts. You can’t deliver the perfect poem. There’s nothing left. Nothing. Your verse slithers like hissing snakes while his is lauded and praised. The world calls him L’Enfant Terrible while pointing the finger at you, accusing you of being his succubus. He will not save you. He will not gather your words and cherish them in a gilt-bound book. His blunt fingers clutch at the pen she gave him and form letters which slide over her belly and scribble all over her flesh. You must hurt him for his own sake. Save him from himself. The punishment you offer him will be its own reward. She must be taught his words are hollow. Here is what you must do…
Art by Michael Baartz see more here