“The lament of a future daughter of Neptune” and Other Poems, by Lucy Holme

THE LAMENT OF A FUTURE DAUGHTER OF NEPTUNE

A day away from slimy induction 
by the King and his helper,

across the Equator’s watery line, 
they catch a fish.
 
We stand transfixed as the silver light 
swoops and sways on its cord 
through the waves.
 
Then — hoisted and hooked, 
bashed and sliced, blood sprayed
into scuppers, 

all remains cleaned 
from sun-bleached decks —
they hold her up. 
 
We smile, recoil.
Peer into one unblinking eye,
and register nothing. 
 
Just a baby, they say, 
as they gather their tools 
and begin their work. 
Italian lessons at Piazza delle Erbe
After graffiti found on a bathroom wall in Genova, Italy, 2009
Scrawled upon the stall, under ultraviolet light,
the letters gleamed like dark spiky gems 
still moist to trace — 
Lady Fuzoku says hello pid!
A lipstick canister expunged,
screwed to bare metal cavity. 
She told me you were here.
Anointed me with the gift of conversation.
With an easy charm, no foreign idiom
could disfigure.
Through my thin skin she seeped, 
my snakelike muse, to make me brash
with small talk prompts.
Whispering low, she gestured across the square
to where you stood, beer glass in hand,
a statue, surrounded by your fans
and I went to you unbidden, arms outstretched,
played hostess at her behest. Said
You look just like my teenage crush,
with mouth painted fuchsia, eyes
like falling stars.
Bitten rose stems lay scattered at your feet
forged the softest sheet upon your plinth.
But when I met you, you were brazen
with youth — already marble hard.
Her slick words drew an unfamiliar voice
and as I made illicit vows, the strange conduit
fell silent. My face, a mask suctioned tight,
held back a waning tide.   
But she only watched from that wall, amused 
as I threw my eager heart into
the street.   
Mrs Miller is in the park 
— For Marilyn Monroe
I
New York is quiet today as she holds
the babies in her arms, and coos and sways.
The mothers let her soothe their cries.
It takes the pain away. 
Mrs Miller is her new disguise. It calms the rage 
as she links fingers with each tiny charge. 
The mothers see through studio-planted lies,
no sexpot smoulder under shades and scarf. 
She crosses feet in satin ballet flats, a spirit misfit
splits the flagstones with a single tap, well-versed
in the cameras’ myriad tricks, she turns the lens
inward in search of an elusive script
on which to scribble her own notes.
Inside the margins this time.
Finally, scratch this inconvenient narrative.

II

Mrs Miller joins the set — the men, meanwhile,
are broken like the shivering horse 
they rope so tight.
Mustang bucking, noose retracting,
she breaks out for a brief second, rears up
to strike like the roped steed before her.
Slick sweat-baked on faded blue denim,
sand-caked instead of pan made-up, 
the one last cinematic ‘pop’,
designed to save her image.
It takes this fatherless child to remind them
of the price of capture and release.
The mothers see.
But the challenge dies in the dust. 

III

Mrs Miller sits in Columbus park not shy
or curious or lonely or oversexed.
In a crumpled grey satin shirt with a visible bump,
normal woman’s stomach.
Dignity sheathed by material.
Not yet stomach pumped from drink and pills —
enema purged, soft tissue mauled.
Not yet a cautionary tale. Just in the park.
Watching the children play.
Before they shoot her down.
Before they ask if she fulfilled her final role,
a goddess muse required for the masterpiece. 
They will gloss over when exactly it was
she fell to earth.
How many times she whispered over and over
to anyone who would listen
I don’t know where I belong.

Lucy Holme is a poet and mother from Kent who lives in Cork, Ireland. Her poems feature in Indelible AUD Journal, The Honest Ulsterman Southword, iamb and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, amongst others. In April 2021 she was a recipient of a Munster Literature Centre Mentoring Fellowship with the poet Grace Wells and she is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at UCC. Her debut chapbook, Temporary Stasis, which was shortlisted for The Patrick Kavanagh Award, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in August 2022.

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