By Millicent Bishop
With artwork by Loni Jeffs & Stella Clough
her hands fused with paper cuts,
she purchased an apocalypse of dreams.
cool and existent—fine in panels and under layered skirts. The roundness of
her eyes wet and ringed like a cat’s. She looked ahead to the unzipping of
his dress pants, the appearance of his small golden bowl of midriff she’d glimpsed on the sand
those safe, sane childhood’s past —all in carousel—
fractured, hallucinatory like
stations of a new cross. stars
There was to come the softness of his insides
—pink, unfolding like silk. Would welcome all manner of growing things,
and in old age would see soil
through fingers, one by one
a body accumulating gold and golden time.
sinking into infatuation like oil He was shimmering,
sunlight thrown back.
but her divination showed glass that was curdled. Cracked at the edges.
At first she didn’t move toward the house
—she knew its newness was deceptive—
but paused on its sinking, scintillating threshold. She was locked into eyes and arms
that would only be unburdened later, and in her vision
time and treaty reversed; a dream grasped and evaporated.
For a moment she saw herself figured as thin-lipped, unyielding woman. She saw
buoyant happiness reflected in the faint suns of his life. They
burned cold, faded into regretful bower.
plunging her hands into magnetic earth where her sturdiness became
a regression. Into the negative and unlit, he had flown their union.
crowned holy then.
Later, water would prickle in his gut and fingertips
at the mention of her hallowed, rice-showered, now whispered
braided into time and the precious metals of her birth, eyes grew up from
sparkling Adriatic. So green, he remembered. Enchanted and later
unsettled by their alien luminosity.
but she had inherited her mother’s dark arm hair. its soft grain for direction,
and her father’s fingers, for making. Her parents did not endure all and become
false first settlers, learn slack new colonial tongue or sew names for her,
to play old forget for him—stout Irish, Catholic-boned. the set, like engagement
china, would shatter.
They were fast-breathing days that floated
into shrunken lungs. Days spent in stagnant sheets,
old rivers flowing with toxic sweat. Ancient dust settles
all forgotten now, gone into that
soft river bed, old cold. Were they
descendants of conquest—
old civilisations now circling endless regret?
When her knees began to buckle and her cheeks to hollow, she
could not imagine any reason but inherent wrongness. After all,
she had a cursed name, for it was
fabrication. Like love, it was thick, ugly,
melting. ‘either you are perfect or you are sick’.
Waking in vile sheen,
hands knotted between thighs. Hanging in vertigo and almost
screaming. Anarchic and slain woman,
from father’s death
Fingers grow like flowers from grave ground.
she had to come anachronistic,
collateral. Stained glass cracked
in other ways she was making and remaking, as was promised in that smooth
gold-ness of hers. Any wary mother could see he had a beautiful wife then. Like
a character in a play,
a two-dimensional woman. like her love story, made for forgetting, but so
witnessed by thirteen eyes and glimmering hands. His own
cracked and death-beaten hands.
she possessed hands that were doves to death. As a woman in her fifties
she saw wings crushed through a turbine.
But the sun was hung and empty, without warmth
—and presented on the tip of a baby’s spoon. Not her baby, but
herself as a baby. For years she would read herself
as the moon, blank and lightless like it.
see how her love would step over sunsets and harvest in halves.
for she was named for harvest and would later muse
on the irony. how
he changed stories into strangeness. It rang out afterwards,
where an omnipresent and cajoling ‘we’ became ‘I’ or nothing. Time was
unbraided, crystalline, seeping into warped wood.
What could not be unseen was how it shined. her eyes made
sweet, aching tinnitus at night. Beyond baby’s cries
were hallucinations of curtains floating out and stars multiplying.
Only where she was, out like ozone
—a momentous web, articulated and stained blue
where holy houses came between mountains. A marriage of dirt and fine stones
to a never-setting sun. she was a swelling sight, veil
of moths alighting. she appeared that hypnotic earth of his youth,
a body of infinite, tectonic fascinations.
in that deep swell of no return, where they were witnessed and sighed at.
Later, words would unravel passionate rot
to youth and naiveté. the pursuit of a different kind of life. Effortless—
the procurement of children in late thirties. Heralded and awful, a life lived
before —stinging at the idea that they had never swum apart
in foreign oceans,
with not even a sparkle to beckon back.
Over the flick of native grasses, locusts clicked and sang. A frog skimmed the
water’s surface, trailing glistening eggs. Its dusk song represented to him
absolution. But always the music. The imagined ways
and the whole, basking melancholy of
shrunken lives. she was a woman in two, kept to behold always.
An age spent,
in their garden. she lay down in a tragedy of flowers. Mourning blooms: gladioli
the sad hydrangeas conspired in their sadness. sang an opera
for the end of the world. to the perfect heart of annihilations.
Destruction rose to her, incandescent,
like a blister.
she leapt, read and knew—
if her body was the incessant earth
it would not stop splitting and splitting into existence. She dreamt she was an endlessly cycling moon into ending
And if she was not the moon, then she would become unreal again
and laugh at the smoke twisting into
the intoxicating blueness of night.
Millicent Bishop is a 20-year-old poet and fiction writer based in Melbourne. She is currently studying Creative Writing at RMIT and working as a bookseller. Her work has appeared in Cordite Poetry Review..