Petite Sphinxes Ermite
…. At the Tate, (Modern not Britain), Leonor
Fini’s Petite sphinx ermite answers all
…. my unborn riddles: broken eggshells,
bird’s skull, “a pretty pink” human lung
…. swings “at the entrance of its dilapidated
lair” as though through years she viewed
…. me, remotely, lying here stillborn, slugging
masticated slurry through a silicone straw.
…. One of “her extraordinary hybrids” painted,
a skeleton study of stock neglect.
…. Tender creature, Shelley’s infant, who learned
the only monsters are people. “I find
…. all these feminists grotesque,” Fini said,
donning a Guerrilla Girl mask, “all artists
…. have an ambiguous side.” Dark, &
the waters, Sappho, smooth our raw edges.
…. Love erodes as much as time. My love is
the ocean, soaks my mummy bandages,
…. unwraps the old dusty lamina, exposes
thick scabs to sun & salt. Trapped on an
…. island of my own conditioning, clinging
to concepts of sickness, seawater cleanses,
…. its gentle erosion slowly coaxes
my coccyx to the threshold & holds,
…. hold, sit, still, stay. “ —a solitary figure
with a child’s head, female breasts—” I’ve spurned
…. bras since Christmas, burn the infernal
cages, these dugs too shrunken to matter,
…. “—& the paws of a lion—” The posh breast cancer
clinic is pretty pink decorated, our tax dollars
…. for tits limitless, Sick Kid’s isn’t rich like this,
gilded portraits, irises in thin vases, current issues
…. of Fashion & Flare. Cancer not the worst
but saying so is. Cancer envy. Jealous
…. of the waiting room, sympathy, jealous
of the holy status of survivor,
…. not of the lonely roller coaster
but of the protocols & answers, of being
…. called a warrior, not a malingerer,
my body is a paradigm shift
…. but they keep devising fictive Iron Maidens,
insist on dissection not integration.
…. I’m a reflection, not a stone
cast at a tin-can tower, a ruin made in
…. irony’s defence. Jealous of wanting
to be tit-free, put down the burden
…. of gender. Masculine/feminine,
either/or, black & white, left & right,
…. neither/nor. Is the cat in the box,
Schrödinger, what can it matter, rocks
…. & a bent net caught, rotting, toxic
run-off— How to be seen without being
…. dissected. I don’t care what you call me,
I am. Wave & particle, paradox surfing
…. the liminal. Leonor Fini’s tumours
hatch, catch air, “carry within them
…. a world of sensations & intuitions”
outside the frame. Matter-of-factual
…. dayworkers drain vital humours, call
abnormal the natural human pull
…. of blood to sea. See, me, not with your eyes,
those gelatinous liars, or your mind
…. (cacophonous like mine), but as I.
I am, & you, too, are, though apart, I
…. breathe what you breathe, I part-you, I
feel what you feel, you part-me, I
…. hum your grief song, carry your hurt heart
tenderly. I breathe you, in your dilapidated
…. lairs, you matter, millions of little hermit
…. sphinxes, we are a part, together.
The disabled poem-making entity known as Roxanna Bennett gratefully resides on aboriginal land. As a settler, they thank the many generations of Indigenous people who have taken care of this land from beginningless time. They are the author of the award-winning poetry collection Unmeaningable, (Gordon Hill Press, 2019), unseen garden (chapbook, knife | fork | book, 2018), and The Uncertainty Principle (Tightrope Books, 2014).
This poem was originally published in Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.
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