An Unknown Girl, by Zhukovsky
Snowlight on her cheeks and lips thrust out like musket barrels, she was winter, a countess or a girl by the hour. True citizen of St Petersburg with her muff and snarl, nursing an undiluted disdain beneath those battle brows – a loathing reserved for an executioner, a failed servant, a drooling client. I found her for an afternoon and she sat and it began like a rearing bear, the pigment and charcoal smearing off my fingers like lifeblood and settling in the stretched fibres. There are many pretty girls but few exude such regal disappointment. Onion vapour. It gave her a godlike quality and I believe she knew how to handle a dagger for she all but opened me up as I drew, her hand clenching and relaxing like a dying spider as I rushed to lay out her haughty geometry. Apologising maybe aloud. The clock sang out. Bored, she went, and I was left with bent grey canes with which to remember her body. I wondered if I had known her at all, if it were not the mind clouds of the clear-running spirits that have doomed so many men. Self soil and ruin. Cheaper than water. Whatever the vintage of my memory, she left me this uncorkable thirst. I found I could not stop painting her. Even now this study is her.
The Horror, by Muninn
Best you close your eyes to see her, propped
like a rickety tripod on the upper deck,
her overboiled potato head sliding apart
and the stink of boy-clothes musting the breeze.
What is that force here that smells like turps,
skeeting by you, riding the tide up into you?
An intelligent virus, whispering to every cell,
turning your body’s security on you.
But this girl, she’s on holiday. She
is dying, bursting out, her skull breaking
from the lengths of ironed stormcloud
that are her hair. The weeds are reaching over
the side for her, calling her home, and those
frost-block eyes are on loan from your mother.
That mouth. That mouth is your homeland’s embassy
in a foreign country, when you have been robbed
and your son is gone
and your wife is gone
and another you sits on the pavement, screaming.
Peony, by Requinto
In a broken box of parts, a girl. A girl or something like a girl, to hang. So hang her in the box of your home. She will break your life, your hanging parts, your tightest locked box. Do we lock the door or hang out a wreath? A part-locked home is around us. She is breaking in so break her in. Adore her. Wreathe her as she breaks. A hung girl breaking into a hanged girl. House her in the hanging parts of your life.
KIRSTEN IRVING is a London-based copywriter, voice actor and editor. She’s one half of the team behind cult hand-made magazine Fuselit and collaborative poetry press Sidekick Books. Her pamphlet, What To Do, is available from Happenstance Press and her debut collection, Never Never Never Come Back, is due out in winter 2012 from Salt Publishing. She won the Live Canon poetry prize in 2011.