Two poems by Rachel Mann
The dreams of Briar Rose, the Sleeping Beauty
I blew forty years’ worth getting blitzed on Special Brew,
dancing the merengue ‘til my toes bled,
drinking debutantes under the table,
taking sweaty cabinet ministers (a bit of rough) to bed.
For fifteen years, I just wept – that ‘finger prick disaster’
replaying, like a schlock horror movie, in my head,
the spinner woman, that old crone, morphing
between Xena Warrior Princess,
Queen Victoria, Hitler and Clark Kent;
I brained her with the sewing machine,
caused GBH with a telescopic mallet,
chinned her Glaswegian style, sliced her in half
with the Kung Fu Buddhist Palm.
Then again, I spent 5 happy years skiing
with Isambard Kingdom Brunel (bad hat),
invented 48 new varieties of jam,
ate pomegranates with God,
played Jane to Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan.
And, of course, I dreamt of him:
tall, lean limbed, a footballer’s arse,
blue-green eyes, tanned, olive skin.
He’s worn Arab style drapes, buckled some swash in pirate togs,
occasionally bored for England in a Saville Row suit.
Once, he was my dad.
I woke to bed sores and an itchy back. A body floppy as a doll.
Him leering over me: my grinning saviour, blank eyed as a shark,
as pleased as a cat pinning down a sparrow. All teeth and bad breath.
I screamed for a month.
Doc says it’s ‘post-excessive sleep syndrome’.
Mum and dad, at least, are glad: Aubrey has just the right connections.
We’re planning a winter wedding – ice sculptures, purple dresses,
a Hello spread. As for me: truth is I’m ready to dive off the roof,
but I’ll settle for the inevitable slammed doors, his tabloid ‘tell all’,
the quicky divorce.
Then, I’ll perch at my tower window,
straining for signs of a warty woman with a wheel and a train of thread.
I’ll let my heart zip as she limps through the gates, beckon her in,
hold out my thumb, quivering as I receive the sting of the pin,
the room spinning comfortably again
sleep, sleep warmer and deeper than if I were dead.
The Risen Life
You wake to a sting between the shoulder blades,
as if someone’s folded a crease down your back.
The silence hurts, and the light unexpected –
grey, not quite morning, glowing at the edges
as if electric is involved. So many people,
lying down, confined, each in their own bay
the slow heave of chests, a faint scent (antiseptic perhaps?)
Not remembering for a second what has happened to you,
then feeling out from the inside a kind of shock
shivering down through your forehead, teeth, neck
a fear about what might have been removed.
There is a nurse, she could be a nurse, someone who smiles
who is not afraid of wounds, whose eyes twinkle
as she holds a finger to her mouth
when you begin to speak.