sylvia plath knew my mother – poem by John Wilks

John Wilks

sylvia plath knew my mother

a single red eye and a flick of ash
she shows me photographs
of men she gobbled but did not swallow
she goes down in a rain of hennaed hair
her fake tattoo a barcode bruise

brute fingers that struggle to squeeze ecstasy
from the marble veins of a colossus
when I see rubber dinghies deflated on the shore
and barbed wire fences unfurled once again along europe’s borders
mother I seek entry to your country
mother I am a refugee at your gates
no need for tear gas in this war on terror
mother let me tell you
god ain’t so great
god runs a polski sklep – a mosque – a cardboard city

your pity is an empty container truck
mother I know you gave a fuck once
I do not find her in clouds of vape
not in the legal highs of love
they cannot legislate against the razorblades

I break on granite wrists
she danced the twist at my wedding feast
that defied a famine
her hair a gamine feather-cut
her hem forty years too short

her thighs revealed as pink as gammon
if she has a god his name is mammon
my verses splutter from my lips like curses
I forego full stops
for they would pierce the page with voodoo pins

prick me and I will not bleed
my skin lies discarded
with those life rafts on a foreign beach
she’s a bitch for thinking I can give her up
cold turkey for the chicken flesh of my husband’s scrotum

worship at his fun-size totem
instead of taste her sacramental flesh upon my tongue
open her lock without a key
that’s how it’s done
that’s how it’s donne

that’s how it’s dun and drear
he calls me sweet she calls me dear
but I am bitter herbs with no day to atone
angel see my blood on the lintel stone
but do not pass by

my true love is the one who lets me die –
– die on my way from a bombed city
via self pity
just to drown in that wine dark sea of ancient renown
I wear death as a crown

“sylvia plath knew my mother” by John Wilks won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2016) judged by Mandy Pannett.

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