Carbon Red

I am a collection of dismantled almosts - Anne Sexton

Yes, of course we can start with the dress.

Can talk of the performative, of the poetic

handmaiden, your present congregation are a 

speculation, an alibi.  So, you turn up the

flame underneath your audience, until they

stand and warm their hands by the poet.

Language burning away like coals.


There will be much guesswork, mention of the

drape, the cut, the belt; the heels required to

keep it from the floor. And of course, the dress

is RED, a great big red problem. But nothing

like as scarlet as your loaded voice.  That’s

what I’d call a proper blaze, the silver melting,

your family home on fire.


So, let’s discuss said voice, Anne.  It has the

very quality of an aftermath.  A vermillion tone,

a ruby, the mosquito’s draft. A voice smoking

like a war horse after battle, the heat rising

from a body in destruction spent, while the

rider rolls claret dregs around the mouth, the


My battle, my rules baby.


Reading to me. Reading at me. Insistent.

And at the end of a phone line, in the loop of

the headphones, time’s arrow flying, you

crackle and flame. From a great distance, I

can hear you mixing Madder, Minium, even,

as you press, a less than holy word onto the

page using the embers of your attention.  

Post wildfire.


And that word is out, and as the applause

rings, she lifts a smouldering cigarette from

the huge glass ashtray.  Raises her refreshed

drink. “You see, God”, she says, to the

acolytes, to the choir, “is not indifferent to our


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