A little girl I knew when she was my mother

A little girl I knew when she
was my mother


emerged from the pages of a bed


from sheets the colour of old snow


crawled from the petals of the Weeping Rose


from silks suffused with smoke


and sweat


dragged her wings from a chrysalis


slipped from the folds of the Virgin’s robes


uncurled her limbs

like an opening fist


free of the winding cloths


felt for the floor

with the ball of her foot



found a swirling-patterned carpet


raised a hand to her sleep-stiff hair


breathed the ancient bedroom air.


There were black flags hanging from the houses


rags fluttering in the breeze.




Miles away, a dressing table.

Angels escort her ineffable steps


to rest on a piano stool,

all that is left of the instrument,


while under the seat, sheet music

hums to innocent childhood airs.


I see them floating in the triptych mirrors

the little girls I knew when they were my mothers.


They look down at their old hands,

jewelled rings screwed over knuckles.


There’s a woman trapped in the centre of their body

that no one can remember, as if in amber.


They look down at their old hands

and cry, petals falling from their eyes.



after Louise Bourgeois