Who is Giselle?

by Jei Degenhardt

She isn’t alive
doesn’t know how to dance the Tarantella, though she knows
its principle –
how skin beats on earth and venom seeps out

does that sound too easy?
it lasts for days

“i’m out of skin now”

Giselle knows the force it takes to sit up
what a callus means when you don’t notice it
she didn’t notice the hand-me-down shoes on her feet the stabs of her hair the gas of a breeze
Giselle never felt breezes and she certainly doesn’t now

it changes you

by degrees
not seeing yourself in a mirror –
but Giselle never had mirrors, just windows
mostly high up and double-glazed

insulation is important
the air gets in the bones
and this grave’s shallow enough
nothing like the wind playing you as if you’re a pipe

can you long for a time when you had a body
can you long like that
a body

a wall’s no obstacle once you’re on the other side
though passing through it gets awfully cold
don’t tell me about the other side
don’t say
other side

awfully cold

trying to dance the heat back
it’s hard to keep time with no sound
or impact

isn’t that what you called memory
don’t ask me to

what about sitting in its shade
where no trees grew, implausibly
moss was there

up lines of concrete

we’d stretch out our hands and see how high they could reach
we might sit on a friend’s shoulders
each day
some days
a little higher, or forgetting which prints were ours

towards the end the doctor said
“Saint Vitus”

“Saint Vitus”
Giselle laughed
and laughed; can you-
“Saint Vitus”
she packed her gasps in barrels with a smile and apologised, though who
would believe her –
that lady in the grey rattling barbed wire
and chain links
bones already but still dancing
trying to float on her back down puddles
she saw herself in a house once, like that was enough

repeat, “i wish you’d leave me”
leave out me
do you miss sweat yet?
dust in lungs? didn’t it feel remarkably sharp

there are plenty of gaps too
might she have heard
down that alley, those figures

(you’re safe
it’s okay

can find your surface

and we won’t touch you
if you don’t want us to

our hearts don’t work

“am i different
was i

in the end

i’m glad I found this place

       lift me a little higher”