• Lucy Dougan



These days
I am fading.
I have to colour myself in,
lips, brows, lashes, hair,
with little tools
that I have never understood.
I thank fate for my mother,
so oblivious to all of this,
and for my daughter,
great, confident wielder of kohl.
And I am somewhere in-between,
flat on the slab at the beautician’s.
With eyes bandaged shut against cold dye
blue-black mothy thoughts of Nefertiti seep in
until the back of my mind
floods with a whole delta
of decorations applied in private,
on display. Beyond me
in the waiting room
my elegant elders
sift patiently through National Geographics, Cleos,
every one of their tight patrician rings glinting.




Now, on the grass


From her vantage point
three vectors span out:
her mother watering the lawn,
her own room (recently vacated)

and down the road the boy’s home,

—her destination—
now forestalled by the curious urge
in her mother to water the garden
late at night.


She is playing statues
by the dark bank of oleanders.
She has blanked her mind
so as not to be observed.
Before her planned flight from the attic stairs,
though flight it cannot be called
as seconds ensued between each
step taken so that the creaks
would seem random,
her progress go unnoticed;

before this the cheval mirror
had held her reflection
much in the same way as lorn lovers
are held in Elizabethan miniatures

—though let us say from the getgo—
she did not love the boy,
she was merely curious.


Her own house held its previous life
so nonchalantly. Now there’s a thing
she did love.
It cast in relics about benignly
so that in the mirror she wore
a cream silk slip with what she thought of
as a sweetheart neckline

though really it belonged to a time

much earlier than that word

and had something siren-ish to it.


Now, on the grass

not feet from her mother

she dares not breathe,

the silk slip is loud enough and all aglow.

The garment, she thinks,

is the same colour

as the deep cream floribunda heads

of the oleander,

their flowers beautiful,

their leaves poisonous.

Should she creep towards

the dark bank

and shroud herself there

to be found frozen in the morning

yet another relic?

But her mother does not see her

or pretends not to see her,

she can never tell.


The vectors shimmer, resolve.

She will, after all,
make it to the room of the boy.

Tongues will find yet smaller rooms.

Teeth will bump up against

the limitations of how faces are made

and in the very early morning

she will take the stairs


for there is a feeling of

deep slumber on everything.

And she will stretch out

straight and silvery

as an oleander leaf
in the ancient silk slip
of her grandmother’s mother

relieved to be back

in her own bed.