for Gwen Harwood

You wore a white Bonds t-shirt to bed last night. A plain, white, no-nonsense Bonds t-shirt and I knew it was over. I heard the death knell. And when you asked me if I was Emily Dickinson’s ear I nodded. Solitary. Solitaire. Solipsist. ‘For whom does the bell toll?’ you asked that afternoon. Campanologists? Two in Campagna? Campaniles? ‘It tolls for thee.’ R.I.P. my lover. R.I.P. my van winkle. Rip out my heart. Wrap it in your white t-shirt and bury it beneath your floorboards. Still beating. My little drummer boy. You can beat me but I won’t be your fiendish queen, my butcher. My blood on your t-shirt will form a scarlet letter. Spot Out damn spot! You wore a white t-shirt to bed last night when all I wanted was to be stuck to your back. When all I asked was to peel myself off you in the morning and mount your erect compass needle. But now we are done. Donne. And you peel me like a grape. I slither out of my skin. Skinner. Skin me alive. I thought we were conjoined. Destined to travel in circles until we met again, in the middle. Until we found our core. But like Nabokov’s apples, all you manage to achieve is to tempt me with repetition. When I am only your dystopian Eve. There can be no valedictions here. So now our lives are cotton. And although cotton breathes, it is also the sarcophagus of our relationship. Embalmed memories. But I promise to dig you up. Like Heathcliff. Or Rossetti. I promise to unbind you and gather you in my arms. Skin on skin. My sweat will be our glue as I rip off that t-shirt and bond you to me one last time.

Cassandra Atherton is a senior lecturer in Literary Studies and Creative Writing at Deakin University. She is one of the judges of the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for Poetry.

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