In Mexico City, I painted wings
on my ankles. The wings were brown henna
and the ink dried to a hard, bloody crust
which flaked away in the sun. I was young,
rib-racked, and terrified of going home.
At night, I danced like a mantis around
a wide fire. My sister, younger than I,
and very beautiful, danced like a bird.
Touching my wings, I prayed to discover
the entrance to another world. Later,
a half-blind guard led me into a cave
that was flooded with water which tasted
like polished sapphires and glowed azure
with gold underneath it, like Giotto’s
painted skies. It was a beautiful place,
but it did not feel mythic; I remained
stuck on the skin of the visible world.
The wings on my ankles eventually
faded, the sapphire water dripped from
my braids. Mexico City is a place
where people live out their ordinary
lives. Across the globe, and older now, I
still pray for the entrance I know I shall
find. The wings on my ankles are nearly
invisible; still capable of flight.
For Todd Mignola
It’s one in the morning and the streets are packed with feral chihuahuas,
snapping their teeth against the ash in the air. Their white grins (it isn’t friendship)
are gritted with something fatty and pale which floats down from the bright peaks of the mountains.
The world ends with the whimper of something grown warped with the wrong kind of love,
like those long-limbed, shadowy children you can just about see, slinking up behind you.
They’re wrapped in rags of coffee-bean bags and shod with deconstructed tyres.
And here you are, adult, and rational (still) even in the bright red eye of chaos.
You cling to the things that you believe you should know: breakfast, with two poached eggs
and The New York Times scrolling slow across the glassy face of your tablet. An unostentatious luxury:
small, and manageable. A reassuring fact that you can hold. But out in the street the children
are howling. Out in the street, the dogs rend raw meat with their manicured claws. The flesh
which they’re eating looks awfully familiar. And there you stand, baffled, with your calm, measured books,
with your delicate hands.
To get what I wanted that year, I wove
three flight feathers (stolen from the car-struck
crow-corpse) with a scrap of the sheet
which caught the blood, violently torn, from my
hymen. I held a picture of the thing,
hard and fast, in my mind. Soon, the answer
came to me. Tonight, at the turning of
the hinge, I am writing out the image
of a door. I can see it, thick and old,
wood the mellow colour of aged honey.
The doorknob, set at the level of my
right hand, is worn silver with a floral
pattern round the base. It longs to be turned.
Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as ‘poetry as salvation’…..’This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.’ Bethany was born in North Carolina. She has lived in five countries and six American states. She lived in a South Carolina orphanage from the time she was twelve until she was fifteen. Bethany has an MA in Creative Writing from Trinity, St David’s and a PhD from Aberystwyth University. Bethany has won many literary awards. Her poetry collections include A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014), The Rag and Boneyard (Indigo Dreams 2016), and Silage (Indigo Dreams, 2017). Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016.