Shorter works

Haunted by a word

Guilt sits in the corner watching me
As an ancient word’s meaning lingers—
Trying to find a use

The doors are all closed to it
But it’s out there, seeking crevices to penetrate

I open my closet and the drape of my favourite fabric whispers its intrusion
The word has been here
Carried like a thought-born plague
Anointing my clothes with a secret unease

And now I cannot wear that dress again
The plague blows from corner to corner within me

And I hold my breath
In the Swansea sea air
As I release my brief pleasure into the smouldering furnace
And watch the flames cleansing my red dress
Freeing me of this plague’s audible odour
A word whose smell unsteadies my flesh’s legitimacy within me
I am free of moral unease


I breath again
And returning to my empty closet
Closing its doors
Closing that ecstasy-lined avenue

I settle into the comfort that my only armchair holds
Its fabric bland, unnoteworthy, undesirable, unattainable
Its vocabulary as sparse

[This poem was written under the pseudonym of Mary Shardness, who is the heroine in a novel that I have not yet written.]