HOW WILFULLY CRUEL ONE MUST BE
TO MARK DOWN ‘NO’ ONTO BALLOT PAPER—
AND YET STILL, BY WAY OF SEARCH BARS,
LOOK FOR ‘YES’ IN THE SHAPE OF
TELL A WOMAN THAT HER SOFT, PULPY BRAIN IS NOT HER GREATEST ASSET, AND SHE’LL LEARN TO TRUST HER SOFT, PULPY BODY INSTEAD.
TELL HER THAT SHE IS ANIMAL INSTINCT, FLESH AND SEX, AND SHE’LL SWALLOW YOU WHOLE WITH HER FELINE INTUITION.
TELL A WOMAN THAT SHE IS NO MORE THAN CARNAL FLAVOUR, AND SHE’LL EXPOSE YOU TO HER LEONINE FLOCK.
SEE, WHEN WOMEN GATHER, MEN ARE (ALWAYS) THE FIRST TO GO: USHERED OUT AND INTO THE SUN BY SHE WHO SNARLS.
AS TIME MARCHES ON, SO DO WOMEN.
SOME ON HARD GROUND, THEIR SLEEVES CUFFED AND THEIR LACES TIED.
SOME ON THE SHOULDERS AND LAPS OF OTHER WOMEN,
DEMANDING LIBERATION AS THEIR FOOTPRINTS LEAVE BRUISES SHAPED LIKE INEQUALITY AND PITY ON THE TIRED SKIN OF OTHERS:
OF THE WOMEN THEY FEAR AND TAUNT.
WHOSE BLOOD AND SWEAT IS WEDGED INTO THE GROOVES OF YOUR SNEAKERS?
we kissed by a river
where a plastic fork on the greasy shore was our only witness
and later, in the honey light of your bedroom, you asked me about my fears
HEIGHTS, i told you
like any new lover would
HEIGHTS, my darling
the ESCALATORS at parliament station
a NEEDLE, bleached and ready to embellish my naked arm
the sort of FOG that swallows up roads and sheep
like tiny, white boulders
with tiny, white legs
unseeingly stumbling into some farmer’s backyard BUTCHERY
or worse! SMOG
cloudy, human acid
(proof that we are failing)
where sea skeletons bear their stony teeth, hungry for toes
and the current
the way it curls and cries and guzzles, summoning plastic and flesh into its ocean garden
we collapse into cotton sheets and
what I do not tell you is that in five years, it will be
YOU, my darling
i will see a pink body lathered in morning sweat by a lone traffic light, yawning
and for a moment, i will mistake him for YOU
and he will mistake me for a contour of a woman, trembling in second-hand trousers
as you always did
in the purple cosmos of my sleep, you spit/kick/curse/strike/ at/in/on me
every day is a burial, my darling
lamb that weep and march
your thumbs lodged into my shoulders, like meaty threats
heights, my darling
how much i have grown
some people are easy to love—
“water once a fortnight” easy
easy to stick to walls, like blue tak
like zips and elastic
sleeping pills and dried flowers
easy like crosswords, and GPS directions
and takeaway cups, and one-size-fits-all ‘easy’
and then there is you—
like ivy in the winter
and stacks of spotted dishes
and shrunken wool
but you mustn’t forget
that the plates and cutlery came from
and card games
and come spring, you’ll climb every wall
and your leaves will thread their way
around every fence post—
every family of bricks
with such marvellous,
practice saying no.
rub it over your joints.
set it as your alarm.
hang it from the towel rack.
iron it onto fabric.
dog ear its pages.
tighten its straps.
tag it in the photographs.
store it under your pillow.
tuck it behind your ear.
pull it over your hips.
memorise how it tastes.
Madison Griffiths is a writer, artist, poet and an online editor at Voiceworks, whose work has been published in VICE, SBS, Overland, Daily Life, Meanjin, The Suburban Review, Kill Your Darlings, Pedestrian, Catalogue Magazine, Catapult, Writers Bloc and Going Down Swinging. Earlier this year she was the Victorian Women’s Trust resident writer and last year was shortlisted for the 2017 Overland Fair Australia Prize in the fiction category. She has been involved in events such as the Digital Writers’ Festival, the NGV Triennial and the Emerging Writers’ Festival. You can find more of her work at www.madisongriffiths.tumblr.com.