This is a poem is somewhere between a prose poem and whatever one likes to define as  free verse. It first appeared in Babel Fruit in 2008.





My friend wishes to re-make herself from sackcloth and ashes.


Take the ashes of stars, I advise,

and sackcloth made

from the recycled garments of saints.


You haven’t seen the scars, she replies.


Months later, after doing nothing,

she decides on brown paper and string.


I tell her that she must use brown paper shaved

from the sunlight that skims fields of ripe grain at harvest –

string twisted from the hair of mermaids.


She tells me I should reconsider the blonde streaks, go on a diet.


For a year, her clothes make her look like a parcel,

covering her from shoulder to knee.


I am so lucky, I know. I carry on with my sympathy,

stop wearing low-cut blouses in her company.


Abruptly, she moves on.

Her wrapping is gone, leaving a soft, pale form.

She says that sand and straw will do to pad her out.


Then take the sand from eternity’s hourglass I tell her,

and the straw from the stable of a unicorn.


Apparently I am fatuous, and probably vain.

I go away – reconsider the blonde streaks, go on a diet.


In my absence, she fashions for herself a golden bodice,

more beautiful than the breastplate of a queen’s battledress.


She tells me that one has to earn this.


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