Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is a tutor for the UEA/NCW creative writing programme. Fool’s World , a collaborative Tarot with Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press) won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me appeared from KFS in 2016, and a chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City was published by SurVision Press in earlier this year.
The Fainting Room
When they laced me tight this morning
my body split asunder.
Clouds heaved themselves across my eyes.
Nobody heard the crack of rib
or witnessed the small moth of my soul
slip from my mouth.
All day I felt the separation so keenly,
yet the household continued about me
as if unaltered.
When Nell came to dust the parlor,
I feared for my soul – my little ghost –
settled on the mantle.
At dinner, my soul watched from the wallpaper
as I raised the soup spoon to my lips –
there wasn’t space beneath my corset for a single bite.
I rose to reach my hand out
but her wings blurred ash.
I felt the table and the diners fall away.
I awoke inside this little room
to find the doctor had been summoned,
with his new, mechanized instrument.
My binding had been loosed,
the doctor applied the treatment
until a paroxysm possessed me.
I breathed deeply of the whole earth.
My soul flew into my open throat.
My husband dropped some coins into his hand.
First published in The Anatomical Venus, Bloodaxe Books 2019.