Introducing that Most Marvellous Human Freak, the Bearded Lady Miss Lupin
So here you are, sir,
in the shadow of the tilt,
the tented dark,
done with the stick and rag show:
the dizzying plinky-plonk galloper tunes,
the popcorn, piranhas & pin-heads,
the Half-Woman – a bust on her pedestal –
the mule-face who brays in his booth,
the Aethiop savage girl white as your wife,
and here I am,
wonder of wonders!
You look nervous, sir.
Is it the mewl of the tyger?
He’s harmless, toothless.
The Bird-headed lady only squawks
for the Skeleton Man –
whose heart at last ate of itself –
& the grind shows are shutting,
the last thieves shushing
those foolish enough to be out.
So come on, closer:
trace the fur of my face,
moist at the mouth, pink lips,
the string-of-pearls teeth –
it’s softer than sawdust,
softer than wolves,
a tangle to tug.
You will yearn to be butterfly-netted,
clamber its rope, part it
& sink in to drink,
& there’s no whalebone stay
beneath this dress
to make me shit blood like your missus,
no, sir, just pelt:
its beast wagon scent,
a thick coat that needs tonguing clean.
I have watched many times
how desire contorts men –
how they tattoo my name down their spines,
how they flail on their nail-beds,
gulp fire, swallow swords;
how they make those sounds that are not words.
How I’ll make the suit and snuff,
the ledgers and the way you pass the port –
all your life – feel like a ghost walk.
Some say we are clairvoyant,
saints or witches.
I say we make you want what you most fear –
if he is she, if wrong feels right,
then what are you, sir?
My fellow freak, come kiss this beard. Here.
unpublished poem, © Clare Pollard 2009, used by permission of the author.