Klara Hughes – Who shall wall/Self from myself

after Christina Rossetti’s ‘Who Shall Deliver Me?’ (1861) and Fernand Khnopff’s ‘I Lock My Door Upon Myself’ (1891)

Dear brother,

I’ve been thinking for a while now that my eyes were never that colour, you washed them out in mildew. You took eggs from the sockets of my porcelain doll and made them duller, I don’t

recognise this room, it’s cut in a labyrinth of other rooms, what looks like a window is a trick. What looks like a mirror is a circle pooling its glass, I’m not sure

why you have placed an arrow pointing towards me. I’ve never known love

or pain. If I was remembering the dead, you’ve made lilies curl in tangerine scabs, making me lean

on a black cloth balancing weight like a coffin, and yet, I’ve never touched a dead body.

This space is heavy with charms I don’t understand.

I cannot be staring at you as that marble head on a plinth is hypnosis, you grow blue strokes in a feathery wing fanning my hair and on your right ear

you wear the red pulse of poppy seeds. What did I have that you always wanted?

Do you come in the night to find it?

There are times when I lock a door upon myself and take nothing to entertain, not even my needlework, let whoever I am peel herself

from herself. When I start to be missed I stroll off into a further landscape and make myself stranger. I’m not love-sick

or melancholic, or even hysteric – truth is I don’t know what’s wrong – I don’t have the words or slightest desire

to put fingers to lips and hush what it is you think I might say. Everything is vacancy.

I could be somewhat drained with sitting around and being painted.

I don’t think I’m obsessed with anything, but I am missing something. How did you see this and walk through a wall dividing?

Your loving sister,

Who shall wall/Self from myself by Klara Hughes was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2021) judged by Rachel Long

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