Poem inspired by an imaginary painting by Leonora Carrington

Her hair is an updraft of orange flame, expression blurred
like an early photograph where the cat is a flurry of paws.
She has the small feet of an infant, but calloused

from a lifetime of running out of burning buildings.
Her clothing undulates like a forest of sea-trees.
I smell talcum powder and sultanas steeped in rum.

I want to swing over the banister and take her hand,
in the way I once believed I could step into paintings;
each one a door to elsewhere. I want to know

if her raised finger is warning or invitation,
if she’s a ghost haunting the rooms behind all those locked doors,
whether she’s dangerous or kind. She is wholly at ease

with her wildness. I want to ask how she manages it,
when I’ve spent years failing to vacate my interior debris
and achieve negative space. She unbuttons her blouse

to reveal the gleaming cogs of her body’s workings.
Not an automaton, not anything so lifeless.
It’s the way she’s forged her shivering insides into steel.

However many times she’s been crumpled up
and trashed, she has reappeared, resplendent
in strangeness. She has outlasted every witch fire.

Yes, all that is astonishing. But what I like best
is tucked quietly behind all the weird and whirring machinery:
something small and steadfast, pulsing with determination.



Writer and singer with post-punk band The March Violets, Rosie Garland’s poetry collection What Girls Do In The Dark was shortlisted for the Polari Prize 2021. Val McDermid named her one of the most compelling LGBT+ writers in the UK today.  Website: www.rosiegarland.com Twitter @rosieauthor