Mother told me I had to keep my virtue safe
said it was something to be kept, a shut purse.
I pictured it instead as cold liquid in cupped
hands, such a small well of water dripping
through my fingers. Mother warned me of thirsty
boys, late-night girls who idled by streams,
up to their thighs in nakedness, glistening laughter
parting so suddenly like ladybird’s wings. Once,
I tried on a friend’s lipstick, amazed by the gleaming
pout overflowing from a face that was almost
beautiful. I had to scrub it off before I got back home,
my mouth the colour of the worn-down chopping board
Mother kept propped behind the sink, my chin raw
from a boy’s rough kisses, my heart like a bitten lip.
Mother taught me how to stitch; each Sunday filled
with tiny crosses like stale bread, boredom a mat
I wiped my feet on, so as to not dirty the silence
of Father counting pages of his bible like money.
Mother is dead now. Old dust floats lonely,
my hips stiff from sweeping an empty house.
I realise now I was made to swim through air;
I should have come back breathless from nights
in ill-kept forests with men who i had let fly
with me, my thin-as-a-lick wings still beating
hard the next morning, like a rush of bad blood.