A Woman is Reborn as a Yard of Red Silk

After Anne Sexton

If it’s right, what they say
and a woman like you is not a woman,

then wear me, headwrap, coiled and twisted
cover the head patchy like mange

wear me, an apron, clean and starched,
smoothed over the ghost of a womb

pin me to your heart as a blousy rosette
forget that you once held a cold blue child

drape me, delicate veil disguising
the beard spreading like chickweed

or a neck scarf, Hepburn - elegant
noose bruises wailing underneath.

I’ll be a kaftan over the breastless sternum
as the tumour glistens in its metal dish

a ra-ra skirt wide enough

to conceal that slick strap on,

but when, one night, the breeze
brings burned feathers and frankincense,

and the wind whips the trees

into a forest of dervishes

and siren voices cut through the dark
and you wake suddenly

tear me in half, hold me up like a flag
and howl, from your chest, from your belly,
your feet planted in the dirt

and remember
and remind me
and remember

and remind me

I have been your kind

I have been your kind.

When you sleep once more,
I’ll draw myself over your naked flesh

like the fingertips of a lover

shudder with pleasure

my partial woman
my grieving woman

my hairy lump of a woman
my beautiful disfigured woman
hacked into by the world
my fuckless unpretty woman
my gorgeous butch woman
my woman of razor wit
your mind like an ocean
your laugh like rainfall

I have been your kind

I’ll run my silken edges between your legs

and when ecstasy wakes you

your eyes will be red flames
your flesh, a totem, a light in the dark.

Poem by Jasmine Cooray commissioned by Poet in the City, University of Liverpool and Loughborough University as part of Poets in Vogue.