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Three prose poems.

By Mélisande Fitzsimons.

Alone in her Prison Cell, Aliénor d’Aquitaine Reflects on the Randomness of Language and History

England, England, land of sputum and spit, I love it. I have always loved your spirit, even when your buttery tongue licked me into near losing the deep fur, felt sounds of my own. Against the plastic colourful surging of Worcester, Gloucester, always talking about the weather, I still carry la fleur, folie, ardeur of my years in o©, ad ho©, o for yes. O: c’est cela, © silent, a sacred yes, it is-o-il est.

It is true to say that no English people are ever foreign. Your tongue crept up on me like silk, while mine was elsewhere, in some so-near abroad that I remember with large gaps, an incomplete text rising into the air. It’s the same litany: Leicester, lestée delestée, sorry, so sorry, ever so sorry, but where is your blood? Then, young Henri “coeur de marbre” Plantagenêt, dumb as a bag of hammers has me locked up forever. In reality, history is a lot sweatier and less well dressed than in books.

Aliénor, alien nation, aliénation. Pigeon-holed in prison, I grow roots and a skin, like wood holds knots. The book that rests on my hands holds messages without visible words, a tree sending signals to other trees. Motionless, arrested against the light, I chart down the discomfort of pinched shoulders and a stiff back. At dusk, when my cell shrinks again and the only company I face is short shadows, it’s a bless to be sitting on a lion for strength. Less in more depth. I will probably outlive him.

Aliénor au Coeur d’Alène with a long history of protesting, even alone, finds herself entangled in new words like a bird caught on a limed branch: it’s easy for a foreigner to lose her voice. Sounds I make with the tongue mid-mouth will suddenly come up from hiding, like explosives. But also, the fun of mimicry, the animal electricity so feared by wolves of faking language for my jailers: there is a lot of dance in the movement of that mouth. Somehow, I know I am heading towards a cliff top sink until it becomes more fluid, a flamer, a souffle, thistle.

This is called developing a language scent. There’s something secure in that perseverance, like the return of the river in the middle of the poem, when the flow of water turns one moment into something far more impulsive. Winter veers towards the water, a liquid metal carrying the heft of light. The memories are just air that live within the intensity of print, sublimed rather than melted when warmed. When spring comes, we look back and carve out random lines in the sand. Dead voices must be allowed to keep their silence too.

The Fragment of an Animal Can Magically Transform into a Complete Creature

C’est le lot des poètes d’écrire des histoires incomplètes

She stitched “I miss today”, “you don’t have to”, and “a jar of cherries” in secret inside our sleeves, leaving us with so much joy. The silk threads have rubbed away through wear and travel and make the words hard to read now. She rests inside all of us, her physical form unpicked, essamplaire.

There are days when I can’t tell if it’s my vision or the fog. I walk to an illusion on the Hoe, hear the flags happily smacking the wind. In front of me, a line divides into high and low numbers, one for the horizon, some for the Breakwater changing shape, near or far: it’s difficult to get a sense of scale. The colour goes and leaves a tease of silver behind, sharper than any storm ever witnessed.

Blindness jumped on my back like a bear. I walk. I can still walk. I go on the treadmill when I wake up, get lost in the three rooms I have been confined to. Stillness is safest. I had so many good years in the garden curled for naps in the long grass on summer days, with the shade of cherry trees over me. I write haikus in my head when I can’t sleep light redacted not knowing if it’s black or day. Always a stoic, I stay seated, listening to the white noise of my thoughts

but who needs more lies

when I would bite or kick you

given half the chance?

I question the purpose of darkness when my iPhone goes flat. Alexa has been a lifesaver.

Wounds: A Meticulous Observation of My Left Hand in Sixty Minutes or Less

I sliced my middle finger with a tin of duck during an argument with my flatmate about their supremacist dad, then observed the delay between the Aaaïïïïïe, sucking great ribbons of my salty blood, and the pain. At the hospital, they sewed the wound with a Soviet needle and black thread:

no anaesthetic

the nurse was really fit and cheerful, chattering about astrology scream and Italy while stitching the two flaps of skin, and we shared the same scream star sign: Jupiter in Mars was behind all this, we agreed. He was obviously distracting me from the pain, tried to keep me scream very still, but I still craved his touch, a charge as erotic as a good subtitle; if you look closely, a white arrow, tiny scissors, or is it a fork? are still visible below the first knuckle

this hand has lines of love and indecisiveness which change texture when you arch the skin back. Ooooh, we don’t want to mess with you, said my friend Mo stroking my palm, before promising a tea-leaves reading that never happened

I’d slashed my little finger with the pocketknife (straight blade/pale horn-tip handle/bee-incrusted spring/the shape and texture of memory) that my grandmother, who lived on vodka and sliced lemons, before breathing her last on a cruise to Egypt without so much as one last word, just the slightest of sighs, had given me on my 10th birthday. The scar has morphed into a dit and a dah, an embossed M, then an en, a brève scar on either side of the long joint face

I kept that knife safe for years, went with it on twelve moves through France and England, then my son loses it on a walk in Wales noooooooooooooooon

you lost the only thing she gave me, I said, how can I ever forgive you

Mélisande Fitzsimons is a French poet and translator living in Plymouth, UK. She has published four collections. Her latest book, The Only Country in the World, is published by Aquifer. Her work has  recently appeared in Tears in the Fence, Stride, The Glasfryn Project and Litter, among others.

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