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