De Beers

At first it’s microscopic. A bubble in a bubble
in a stoppered bottle of champagne, it incubates.

It carries on a wind of violins, hooks into her finger like a thorn,
a ward seed chewing through layer after layer of skin.

Steadily it works itself to the very bone and grows
as fat and white as a blister, harder than a stone.

It ladders her tights and gets infected, snagging hair and coats
as she brushes up against them on the tube, in restaurants.

She keeps her fist in her pocket, learns to shop with gloves.
She gets verruca acid on prescription and a packet of Elastoplast

which curls in the bath and peels off soggy polos of dead flesh
to give the parasite a more pronounced appearance.

Steadily she grows accustomed to its face. She cleans it
with a cotton-wood bud dipped in liquid nitrogen.

It starts to gleam. And now she looks at it all the time,
twisting her hand this way and that in the sunlight, like a fiancée.


from Cohabitation, Seren, 1998