Thursday, January 25, 2007


Later, he would say
I think I first really saw her in a sheet
clutching the crumpled cloth
her body awkward in surprise
that she had slept the night with him

The memory of last night written on
the faded grey patches of that sheet
(scarred by harsh detergent
in a mediocre laundry service)
a ball-scratching receptionist
the outside neon light leering
at the sweaty forgotten orgasm,
or not,
in a bare room

He lay on the stained striped mattress
pretending not to cover the flab
on his stranger’s body
with only a smile
now that the sheet, with its story,
was in her hands

Later, the sheet that covered
her angled body
as she was wheeled out of the building
was white and clean,
sharply creased,
no hint of what lay beneath
She would have been pleased
by the final naked sense of order
A woman who had measured her life
by sheets

A forbidding luxury of lace
on the Irish cotton fabric
of a parental bed
- the first untitled chapter

Later, she would wonder
how he ever fucked her on the
strictly-guarded convent-made splendour
or perhaps he didn’t
and drank
and screwed
and lived a broken life in some other world
where he died one childhood day
and she had the luck
to grow estranged from
only one embittered parent
and live out the nights of her youth
on rich satin cloth in deep sluttish colours
that would outrage her mother
more than the men who lay on them
- the number, or kind

Those bold burgundy days
never foretold of
the prettiness of paisley polycot
with which she would adorn her life and home
with a vigor and fervour
that polished the pretence
of her home-making virtue
into a skill her babies learned to hate
and violate
with messy and crumpled decades
that she straightened behind them
until she grew weary of the role
and lay herself down
on her marriage bed
on sheets she would never later remember
and without the man
who must have driven her to
department store bargains
with some passion,
surely only a passion would have made her
forsake the heady freedom of black satin
in return for this shrivelled hole
tucked diagonally at the edges
to fit neatly into the corners of an impotent bed

Later, she would wonder
and marvel at how the world had changed
in texture, touch and color
to welcome her jubilant return to life
as she would wander
through people’s lives and homes
smiling at the beds they slept on
and the sheets that covered them,
and, some nights, her own body,
or soul

And much later, they would whisper
about her mad ranting
that blamed the sheets
daily more rough and plain
in motel rooms
now that she was invited less
to stay with friends who had husbands
and sons and fathers and men
who learned to laugh and talk with
a whole smiling woman

It was the sheets she said
as she burned holes in dull dis-coloured days
drawing deeply at some last silken thread
that may vanish in smoke
Not the money that ran out
not the children she forgot and
her breasts still remembered
not the pain of a drained body
and a sleepless soul
It was the sheets on which she slept
with unrecognizable men in exchange for life
the sheets would wrap her days
tightly to an end

Later, he would say
I think what attracted me to her,
the night before,
was perhaps her dress that looked like
some sexy bedsheet lighting her bedroom eyes.

He was a stranger
too young, too drunk
How could he have known?

© Anita Vasudeva, 2007


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