An antique chamber of unpanelled oak,
it holds me like a library, smells of small slights
and pencil-sharpening. Echoing the memory
of a dream, somehow it feels safe.
Beside my knee, a flamingo’s beak, snapped
on the croquet field, forms a hollow cornucopia.
Trapped by my hip, a moth-wing, fragile
as gelatin, crumples – disaster to hatch in a drawer.
The stamps are out-of-date, the envelopes
unwritten beside a pile of blank sheets used for
boarding-school letters that started: Dearest,
ended: all our love – I always crossed that out.
Turning over is hard. I push against
the wooden ceiling. A set of keys finds
the hollow between my shoulder-blades,
tries to unlock something.
The Old King never notices I’m there.
Rooting for his palette knife, crusted in oils,
he comes across an empty tube of Carmine 189,
sighs, scuttles back to the safety of his cell.
The Red Queen reaches in with a hot hand,
finds me wanting, turns up my palm,
searches for a future.
Having survived a childhood dominated by the Red Queen, HILARY HARES has an MA in Poetry from MMU. Her poems have found homes online and in print including Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Magma and South. Her collection, A Butterfly Lands on the Moon supports Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care.