How to build a woman, sodden flowered and strong
Hester J. Rook
Changes come sudden as storms –
a crystalline stillness and then fat drops splatter
across the steaming earth –
onto rooves –
into open windows (rainroar on corrugated iron
loud as if it might drown the thunder down).
The air tastes pressure-heavy like iron
and grey clouds roil,
After, the world is different.
I am a roughened bitzer thing
a put-together woman.
My body is moulded and collated and collected
stitched and shaped and rendered
(sometimes even my own).
An enchantress plucked my eyes from the beak of a currawong
as it skimmed wingtip to earth, patchwork feathered.
Melded above my nose (an offcast button
scratched in two places),
they gleam glintgloss with passerine memory.
A sorcerer soldered my structure
a tallowwood skeleton
oiled smooth and strong and rich.
He fastened smashed nautilus shells to my fingertips
seaswitched and oystered.
I spun my hair myself, polishing strung reams of copper,
weaving in twigs and yellow carnations,
pulling and stretching til it
fell in burnished sheets
An orchard swallowtail settled on my chest to form my
(the size of my palm).
I met a magician once and he transformed me:
plated my flanks in filigree gold;
reddened my lips with nutmeg wine;
carved my feet like birds in flight,
delicate clockworked bronze.
Their wings floated gauze in the breeze.
He held my waist to dance and the birds danced me along with him.
his teeth flashed sunwhite when he smiled
gladdened to see me gleam.
Rough scruff stubble grazed my sabre throat as we spun
(I remember a verandah
full of fairylights, flowers woven through my spine).
But I am snakelike and changeable and
my own, only my own:
a lilt-voiced stranger sewed words into my fluttering lips;
a seathing laced my clavicles with moonlit pearls;
and sometimes I shed my skin.
When the magician went
his gifts went with him:
my sides tarnished redbrown as muddy earth;
wine streaked my cheeks;
the birds no longer flew.
(But I kept my hardwood spine
my avian eyes
the hair that falls down around like coppered chains.
Wings still pulse my heartbeat out
mothsoft and trembling).
now that I have peeled away my lying skin
I wonder what I’ll become.