Poem: Matryoshka

from Arthur's Seat (451x640)

This poem first appeared in The University of Edinburgh’s From Arthur’s Seat, published by Egg Box Publishing 18/04/16.


I was red hot once, in my sarafan, with my six
pretty girls beside me. We had nothing to hide.
Our lacquered simpers graced the mantelpiece;
our bellies round with pride. Then hands split
us open, our wooden waists howling, crammed
my bean of a babe into her big sister, and she
into hers, and she into hers, and she into hers.

They made an onion of us, and we had to
eat each other’s secrets. We’d grown old.
The vintage of our curls and beauty spots,
flushed cheeks and bitten lips, had bred
contempt. We little ladies had taken up
too much space, for much too long.

My body solid with devoured kin,
they placed me in a modest place to
squat beneath a lampshade, vie for
prominence with porcelain tat, the
vacant milk-skinned shepherdess.

Now I cannot move for the heft
of my girls. I retch when they
wriggle within me. My glaze
has cracked, my paint flakes.

My lashes fall. My cheeks
blanch. The flowers of
my sarafan are fading.

My rosy smile has
shrunk to a bitter

black dot.