We see the flatterer coming up the path through a single eye
We sisters, monsters grey from birth, keeping counsel in our cave
We graceless Graeae, kin to Gorgons, Fates, we Phorcides
who pass between us one eye, one sharp tooth
We who cannot see the devil all at once
But know his many guises
He, the procurer of certificates.
He, the forger of passports.
He, who is paid only in cash.
He, a forgetter of faces.
He, a registrar, a bursar, bank manager,
a purser, a pilot, border patrol officer,
a suitor, a celebrant, senior doctor.
over the earth,
Go at once
So I have taken the eye, and left you our shared tooth.
What I have seen, dear sister.
If you can name yourself, no riddle will remain
Faust: There is no past or future in an hour like this, the present moment only
Helen: is our bliss
Child, whose name is abundance
who leans into a drift rising
heroic into a war
across a wingless ocean this rumour this child
whose very happiness depends on battle
whose body will disappear into the body
of a man and then into the unholy
darkness that unknowable shore
of the ground descending
alone or into the wide sky
as mist the body whose leaving
is untouched gleaming untarnished
whose parents lean into a present becoming
quickly past whose name means everywhere
a loss I catalogue each moment its noble fall
holding fast—mother—to these clothes that scorch
and draw up like smoke clouds this body is the last child
these clothes sewn by my hands you have long since outgrown
I mulched the roses for your physic,
the Doctor says, lopping each head
into a good sterile jar. Tomorrow
I will sow these fermented blooms
back into your lungs, its opal tincture
an apotheosis of rainwater injected
into the body on trial. The townsfolk,
drawn by some popular ritual or by an
unharvested crop will macerate spring
bulbs back into the earth, ploughing
on a saint’s day, dancing in a beerish
circle, claiming I am their protector.
—I confess to you what salves are poisons
what passes for heroism, I weep, I laugh
loudly, knowing only the devil knows—
that sharp-elbowed CEO at the lectern
scalding the lawn brown like herbicide.
I signed a contract in my blood to strive.
A reporter starts up, corrects himself,
gets my name right, right again, wrong.
SANDEEP PARMAR is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool where she co-directs Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing. Her books include The Marble Orchard and Eidolon, winner of the Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection.