by Charlotte Jade Puddifoot
October: I’m eighteen, shortcutting home
through an autumn-burnished churchyard –
copper-lustred leaves, moss-skinned stone –
a jaunty swing of skater skirt and arm,
college folder square-sturdy in my hand.
In the moment. In the last pale pulse of sun.
“Hey, can you tell me…?”
I halt. I turn…
Cold earth. Colder blade dimpling my skin.
My coral cameo earrings scatter,
daisy-dotting the green.
My back is spiked by needles of yews.
Sun skews, sky side-slides
until his face is the firmament.
I’m staring into the tumid blank-bloat of blue;
the ground hardening beneath me,
the death-spike trees stiffening.
Heavy Special Brew breaths,
grubby, moist fingers
like grubs crawling over my breasts,
and, weirdly, I’m smelling pepper –
horror-spice of pungent lust
its acrid nose-thrust –
and woodsmoke is drifting from somewhere…
of searing words – his words –
blazing like the umber tumbling leaves.
Fear-forced bargaining, but I’m beyond care.
And I’m aware
of the church steeple rising,
its phallus penetrating sky.
The tilting church could topple
as tears crystal-crush in my eyes.
Fear-faint, already half gone
in a soundless scream, my muted mouth
mouths silent goodbyes
to Sarah, to Mum.
Time slows to a crawl.
I try to call. Nobody comes
but the man who has me ground-pinned.
Bleachy stink of semen
whitening my ripped skater skirt,
but some things don’t fade
and there is no clean in this, just dirt,
wet leaf-mulch, shame.
Sacred soil is soiled, sullied.
Stunned, I stumble
into the trees and heave
into the mud, into the leaves
strings of spittle-sick,
my thoughts strung out,
reality spun out.
From stinking, pulped leaves I retrieve
crushed coral earrings,
my white court shoes
that whitely scream the 80s,
the scattered tatters of essays –
white, like fallen feathers, sunk in the sludge,
muddied, the red-inked words bloodied.
I gather them together.
forward into my future, stained from pain
and tainted touch, the smears of fear, self-disgust.
And oozing slime-soft into my ears
the mire of incongruous apology: I’m sorry
don’t tell anyone – I won’t.
- 46A much-cited source in literature on film. "Notes on Film Noir" by Paul Schrader, 1971 English - In 1946 French critics, seeing the American films…