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 they had missed during the war, noticed the new mood of cynicism, pessimism and darkness which had crept into the American cinema. The darkening stain…