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.