Size / / /


Dripping with sweat, an ache in her head,

A girl wakes in a green bed,

Safe in her mother's house again,

A cloudless sky outside.

Mowers outside roared through her dream,

The bluejays flutter and scream:

A hot and baking day of May,

An hour after dawn.

Her walls are papered with crimson fruit,

Dark and tangling down their root,

Clinging to night in gray and blue.

She loved it as a child.

The room was hers before she was grown.

It's her room once more, alone.

Though her dream calls, "I want, I want,"

It fades in streams of sun.

Still, staring at the wall, she lies,

Tracing patterns with her eyes—

Limbs, elbows, throats, curled roots, black hair,

Aslant, across, and down.

Mother, downstairs, is starting to bake.

The scent makes her belly ache.

She has known these walls too long;

They tell her nothing now.


She walks between the garden beds,

By orange-blazing marigolds.

Her mother paces at her side,

In yellow, with a broad-brimmed hat,

Smelling of scones and raisin toast,

Tall in the unabating sun.

—This is the time to buy tomato starts.

The kitchen garden faces to the south.

I'll plant it all again now that you're home.

—That sounds good, Mother.

—My peonies are reaching for the skies,

Covered in buds. We'll have a record year.

They're glad to see you. Never leave again.

—I won't, Mother.

—Didn't you eat when you were with that man?

You look as though he starved you for six months.

I'll be so glad to haul him into court.

Yes, fruit, blood, flesh,

Silence and night, I knew their taste,

Knew strength when his brutality

Bowed, gentle, at my feet.

—I'm sorry, honey, I'll stop, please don't cry.

I know, you had no choice. He broke your mind,

He forced you, with those eyes. It's over now.


—I'll need your help to cut the daffodils

And carry dead leaves to the compost heap.

The tulips and the hyacinths are past.

—I'm sorry.

—You're getting sunburned. Look at your poor arms.

Why can't you ask the servants for a hat?

You know they'd all do anything for you.

—I'm sorry, Mother.

—Go inside and rest.


That night she walks her room,

Naked and burnt, alone at last.

The mirror by the stained-glass hanging lamp

Reflects her, merciless and clear,

The bony knees, the pale and graceless limbs,

The red and blistered arms,

The seared red skin on lids and nose.

It aches; she feels her heartbeat in her face.

Salve for her skin smells sweet:

Pine needles, smoke, and scented lands

Where they would hardly recognize her now.

She had pale servants in that place.

She was a queen and judge, before the end.

And do they think of her,

Curse her, cold woman, traitor, bitch?

Or do they all forget, as he'll forget?

The paper on the walls

Grows lush by night-time and recalls

Dark eyes between the leaves, muscles and veins,

A mouth with pomegranate stains.

She rubs against the wall, deliberate, calm,

Leaving a smear of balm.

Blue dye rubs off along her chin.

She whispers, "Lover, lover, let me in!"

April Grant lives in Boston. Her backstory includes time as a sidewalk musician, real estate agent, public historian, dishwasher, and librarian. Among her hobbies are biking and ruin appreciation.
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