Mercedes Webb-Pullman


If I still wrote it would be of you
Cherifa. You in the black niqab
and sunglasses, you in my bed,
wanton as Tangier’s cracked black
nights. My tropical illness.

Fever. The room fills with bugs, bats,
empty bottles; parasitical elevators
lead to the desert. The wind wild-imp-nervous.
The derangement of salvation.

You place spells, blood, in my houseplants.
Small skeletons and knots. You bring drums
from the medina. I shall suffer.

Detachment, starvation under sheltering
sky. My head stops ticking. Self-indulgent
decadence, more kif, more gin. The Indian
trying not to look at me.

For years I forged
my own hammer and nails.
Paul eclipsed me.


Louisa, you look so well! The new hat
suits you. Oh, and you owe me five guineas.

Remember you wagered that Victoria
would never receive Lady Millais
as long as Ruskin, her first husband, was alive?
Yet there she was, today.

An annulment is not the same
as divorce, but Victoria is prudish. I tried
to explain the difference; she wouldn’t listen.
Effie curtsied happily enough, when she
was still married to Ruskin.

I can’t help wondering what they did for six years,
sharing the same bed. Her grounds were ‘incurable
impotency’. Two of London’s best doctors attested
she was still a ‘virgin entire’.

Something’s strange about their situation.
Ruskin introduced her to protegé Millais.
Threw her at him, some say.

Ruskin never remarried, though he courted
more very young girls after Effie left. Some say
he can love only virgins; that’s why he couldn’t

He wrote her that odd book, when she
was only twelve years old. All those Pre-
Raphaelites were funny about young girls.
Even Millais. Some say there was something
odd about his relationship with Effie’s sister,
Sophy. The beautiful one who died mad.

Then Effie and Everett had eight children.
Nothing wrong with her body. Victoria made Millais
a hereditary Baron eventually, so Effie became
Lady Millais. Victoria still refused to meet her
until Millais, on his death bed, was asked,
by Princess Louise, if Victoria could do anything
for him. ‘Yes’ he replied. ‘Receive my wife’.

She did, took her curtsy forty years after
they’d last met. And I won our wager.
I think I’ll buy a new hat, too.

Cleo’s soliloquy

A cooler evening breeze brings
tatters of music, battle cries;
my final night in Alexandria.

Pan abandoned Anthony.
He died, just now, as I held him.
His gods all are fickle. I am Isis.

My life lies behind me, a tapestry;
queen and goddess, mother and wife,
twice lover of Imperial Rome.

Smoke shrouds the lighthouse,
light glows along the quay, like
the night Caesar fired our ships,

bright against a reddened sky.
Loud with battle, the crowd.
I strain to hear

last echoes of one exquisite tune
that curls and floats, fragile as ash
through the air.

your lover was here, now he's leaving

This is my punishment;
to be aware of time’s paradox
so at this moment

all possible moments exist
except Mark Anthony,
turning back. I face

endless night, as the sound
of my lover, leaving forever,
slowly fades away.

Mercedes Webb-Pullman: IIML Victoria University Wellington MA in Creative Writing 2011.

Poems and stories have appeared in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Scum, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Otoliths, Connotations, The Red Room, Typewriter, Main Street Rag, Pure Slush, among others, and in her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.
     contents     next page


Blogger Lola Nation said...

The last is my favorite of the three - great writes.

3:20 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home