Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Light the wings, set the whole bird alight, I beg him.
We are two children, cast out of what remained of our lives. The world around us is almost familiar, almost a forest, but flatter, chewed, charred. Hansel looks at me as though he were a visitor from the lands of light. Light the wings? he repeats, cradling the blue bird to his breast. Light the wings? I can see the bird's staccato pulse hammering under its feathers.
Then we can follow its blazing trail, and it will lead us to the house of plenty, I urge him . Imagine Hansel, the sugar spun windows, the chimney shadowed with burnt treacle, something golden to stor your morning tea with. The bird fixes me with its song-furied eye and spoke in magic:
Mirror mirror on the world, who is the cursed girl of all?
I don't care. I am texting my fairy godmother for a soul candle to light the dark room of my heart. Right now, I need a warm bed, high above the forest floor, away from all the vermin. I punch in the letters. Oh Godmother, it would seem I am trapped in a broken story, and all I have is ash and clinkers.
Hansel takes my arm, and turns my palm upwards. His face, in the shadow of his bird, is as dark as a ghost's, his pale eyeshadow contrasting with the blood on his cheek.
Come to me Gretel. See.
He invites me to touch the bird's soft breast, to feel the braille of its heartbeat beneath my fingers.
We cannot set light to this, it may be all we have.

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Not Kissing Independence Gray

My height wouldn't matter if I had a ladder, I thought as I struggled to kiss the man named Independence Gray. It was an inversion of the songline: the only man who could ever reach me, which made me laugh, because Independence really was the son of a preacher man, though one so addicted to the shadow on the grapes that he was completely undone by his religious philosophy. And the shame of that, combined with his astonishing height, formed the coordinates for the downfall of Independence, whom I was still finding it difficult to kiss.
If I were on my own with him, I would go out and improvise a ladder; I'd build a makeshift Corney Reach set of steps and climb up the perilous slope to place my lips upon the brow of the man I like to call my own dear heart. But I cannot do that before all these people.
There is Reckless McClennahan, longing to find the path, turning her torn bits of map this way and that and asking us for improbable post-codes. There is the Original Female Drummer girl with her banners and her Temperance vest. There is Grendel's mother in her boned corset. They will all be quick to spit and judge. So here I stand, helplessly on tiptoes, straining to the horizon, puckering up and knowing beyond all certainty that if only I had a ladder, my height would not matter at all.

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace

Will we brace ourselves against the chaos or relax into the storm, turning and tumbling until we are set down again in another place entirely?
Pleasure comes to me in a dream, her harrowed loveliness holding all my desires. She comes monobrowed, antique, dressed in pinks and greens. She comes with a tiny bird hanging from her thorn necklace. She sees not, neither does she covet. Did I say covet? I mean comet, of course. She tears through the night sky, her steel-capped boots ghosting a trail of sparks.
She dips her brush in curdled milk, paints me a white painting, a moon, a bride's book of psalms. Or is it Common Prayer? She paints these solid things to feed me. Here, she says, this is a lettuce. It cleans the blood, and she shows me her back pierced and riveted. Her dark hair is tied up in a hairpiece upon which the butterflies might rest. She is as sad and serious as frozen linen.
Here is my house by the sea, she says. The storms it has seen. She tilts towards me.
Will we brace ourselves this time, she asks, or will we relax into the storm, turning and tumbling until we are set down again in another place entirely?

The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele