Pascale Petit

Pascale Petit

The Lover’s Bed

after Rebecca Horn

When my father tells me he treated himself
to an electric bed, I see morpho butterflies
tied to the bed frame by wires.
I see the sculptor Rebecca Horn
rigging mariposas with motors.
I see how their scales are crystals
that reflect tropical skies after death
and that my father still flies his familiars
through the cloud-forest night.

I see them flapping their ozone blue wings
to waft oxygen towards him. I press the switch
and they fly faster, until the room crackles
with summer lightning, each flash
the day he met my mother. The hotel room
where she worked as a maid swarmed with volts
as he flung her on the unmade bed
and tore off her blue uniform.
Her thighs opened like trembling wings,

her hymen a wingless butterfly
that Papa laughs at after ripping off
her wings. For the rest of her life
she’ll be pinned to her bed, searching
for her innocence. For he just laughed
when someone opened the door
and he continued, all his doors opening
as if worked by pistons. Now the air quivers.
Now I see him, now I don’t.

O aurora blue when I was conceived.
I make him sit up and down. I make his heart
flitter like a butterfly trapped in his chest,
I make his lungs turn zephyr blue,
his nights haunted by the startled eyes
of wing undersides. I flick him on and off.
I’m just a rotting banana on his jungle floor,
who he’s drinking through the straw
of his proboscis, which is his oxygen tube.

O electric single bed for a lifelong bachelor.
O dead butterflies bluer than porn celluloid,
wearing motorised metal basques that
thrust your wings up and down, faster
and faster. O pitiless all-seeing eye of God.

PASCALE PETIT’s latest collection, Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe, 2020), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize and for Wales Book of the Year. Her seventh, Mama Amazonica. won the Laurel and Ondaatje Prizes. Her debut novel, My Hummingbird Father, is forthcoming, and her ninth collection, Beast, in 2025.