Girl on a Liner

by Emily Berry

after Rose Wylie

This is the body’s way of handling emotion.
I am dreaming a lot about voyages.
Mostly I can’t remember them. There is something spilled
in the background (they say it is a house).
I wrote, Nothing in the outside world is changed,
to ward off the catastrophe. I am in a beautiful place
with birdsong and which smells of flowers; yet,
everything is very skewed. I loved you, but not in a pure way.
Something kitsch could break my heart so thoroughly.
Why should it not? ‘”What do you want?” is not a simple question!’
I say, again, or am I shouting. But you must know,
they said, calmly and like a very light breeze.
You must have some idea. What’s that noise?
I expect it’s the sound of the train breaking down.
Does crying age one? If so I suppose I’ve become very old.
In the dream there is something hard he is asking me
(my father) but it’s vague…it’s vague. I examine my face
in the morning. It is only partly like hers.
I watch the water pour out of my eyes; there was a feeling
but I wrote it down and it ceased to be a feeling,
became art. ‘”I am afraid of…”‘ the explained,
‘might be better rendered as, “There is a fear of…”‘ Then
I get confused-stroke-scared, looking at the shit-coloured night,
and there’s a curt wind at my back and I’m crying again,
crying with the relief of not being loved. Whatever it is
will reveal itself,
but I feel like that grubby place
beneath the door handle, the place everyone touches
as they leave. Sometimes the world goes very hard
and cannot be got into; I slide off its surfaces
and I am trying to take in air, or trying not to.
I cannot believe I would conceive of doing that to you.
In the house she is very plaintive and timid, bereft,
and goes into a room off a long corridor,
making mournful noises. I feel terrible. I’m standing
on the edge of nothing, with a handkerchief,
in a ballgown, and I am waving goodbye to you all.

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