In the centre of my grandmother’s garden
there were hundreds of miniature fuchsia girls
from a fountain of leaves
each flower a ballerina mid-twirl,
her cerise sepals splaying out like
two outstretched arms
multiplied into four
by the swirling blur
their skirts violet petals,
blue tulle slowly darkening
into a midnight hemline
each filament a long, thread-thin leg
each anther a tiny, white slipper
I ripped apart the fuchsia girls,
I even crushed the buds,
sleeping girls curled up inside satin pendants
Then I peeled open my skin in strips
After ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ by Artemisia Gentileschi
I sharpen the sword for you,
then keep watch outside
until I hear his voice: bitch.
I run inside the tent.
Sword pressed to his throat,
you pin him to the bed.
He flails like a baby.
I wrench back his arms
as you force down his head.
My sleeves are rolled up.
My hair tied back in a scarf.
I couldn’t let you do this alone.
You dig in the blade. Saw.
dots my wrists like rubies.
Our faces are flushed.
Our arms burning.
Two wolves, we pant.
I pick up the king’s head
by its warm, slippery beard
and put it in my shopping bag.
Elizabeth Siddal Poses for Ophelia
You have not spoken for five hours, or more.
Your body is an extension of the porcelain bathtub.
Limbs still as tubes of wax. Hair hangs in water
like dead leaves. Toes crinkled. Nails soft and pliant.
Is this enough,
you think. He sighs in fevered torment.
His paintbrush flies, as if he is conducting the crescendo
of an opera. This is music. Magic. O, he is melding
you into her and her into you, mixing up divine tragedy.
Her clothes spread wide,
and mermaid-like, awhile bore her up . . .
till that her garments . . . heavy with their drink . . .
Under the bathtub, there are candles. A lash of air
pushes the thin flames so far over the edge
that they cannot return to shape. The water
You are not sure you can move. Inside your chest,
the tiny bunches of alveoli flare like skirts in flight.
Lung tissue spreads wide, drinks in fluid. Soon, you
will be seen for pneumonia. He paints on in fevered torment.
Laura Stanley is a poet from the West Midlands. Her heresy has ben published in bath magg, Magma, The Interpreter's House and by the Young Poets Network.