Just as sunset bruises the sky,
plates begin to rattle and shift
at the restaurant next door.
The manager smokes a cigarette, wetting
the end of his filter with his tongue.
The world is a murmur
in their garden of broken chairs
and shattered crockery: an archaeological site,
a class of students cupping their hands
and pulling ceramic shards
like prehistoric bones from the earth.
The hollow footsteps of museums.
The happy birthdays, the wine bottles
uncorked, the plates scraped
with spoons. There is a man
explaining the significance of blue
porcelain to strangers. There is a woman
digging her fingers into dirt.
There is a waitress pouring wine
for two lovers. There is a hand
on the glass, looking in.
She came out a murderer. There was a crow
on the window, peering in as she crowned
and clawed from darkness through red
to golden morning. He cawed as she mewed.
Her mother sang silence, a shattered baptismal
pool leaking blood to the floor.
Now, trace her droplets like a constellation,
ask the floor to whisper her name. Her mother
is stone and hedge and mealworm. She is flesh
and bone and black feather. She wants to claw
through blackened earth to dig her up, hold her
skull and blow air into it to see if it sings.
She is a textbook, a general summary
of woman. The ovaries are here. The hymen
is here. Here, it is broken.
The teacher implies it was an afternoon
bike ride, the holiday beach excursion
on horse back while the cruise ship docked.
That is why the hymen is broken.
The textbook woman is pure.
The textbook woman doesn’t fuck.
The textbook woman has tenderer,
smoother, rounder breasts.
The textbook woman lies still.
She thinks of England.
She is paralysed, she cannot touch
herself, reach out to find
a watercolour of pastel
genitalia, a hairless rodent, a
lab rat on electric floors.
Is she dancing or are her feet on fire?
Amy Ellis has a BA in Creative Writing from Longwood University and a MA in Digital Publishing from Oxford Brookes University. She is a self-published author and works in rights and licensing in the UK publishing industry.