THE DAY THEY FOUND EIGHT SEVERED BREASTS ON THE BEACH
The trail began where rock met sand: a scatter of bobby pins, a silk scarf, an ‘ethnic’ bracelet.
My lecture jottings note that the female poet seems unsure of herself.
A few sandy footprints, then dangling jewel-drop earrings, wristbands with pink skulls, a wedding ring, and then come the shoes.
Her lips are painted inside the lines, panties discreetly adjusted to stop elastic bothering bikini line stubble while she stands at the lectern.
The stilettos were abandoned first, obviously. A pair in serious beetle black, some red ‘fuck me’ boots, heels sunk in the sand.
Her poetry is delicate: translucent tea-cups and berries collected in skirt-folds. She explains too much, not trusting herself to jump the fissures, or us to follow.
Footprints, and Doc Martens, Chuck Taylors with green ribbon laces, mum sneakers no doubt worn with jeans.
What is to be found in the fissures? Strange lantern fish and a lifetime of blood congealed to rock. Secret lava flows that tug the moon.
There are sand-scuffles where they pulled their jeans off. Faded blue, skinny black. Also sheer tights collapsed like snake skin, a pencil skirt, a braided leather belt.
In the fissures: Smashed tea cups lie in the bottom mud to cut soft feet. Berries fermented into a brew to send you from your mind, to be spewed upon your apron.
Footprints, and a white silk blouse, an ironic T-shirt, complicated halter-neck, then bras: black and strapless, all-encompassing lilac, flesh-coloured wireless. And here are cotton candy panties, others black with a thick band of elastic BONDS BONDS BONDS, frayed lace, some stained, all trampled in the sand.
In the fissures: hair and urban life divided into sections for the dying, friction, dicks, and corners where the grime sticks eternal because you drank all the Handy Andy trying to make your body come clean as your neat typed verses and sheets with the stories bleached out.
Footprints lead you beside the water, to a neat pile of Amazonian breasts with iron spilled all around. Bluish lumps, tapering to a skin flap, sand sticking to blood and curve. Some nipples brown; some purple-that-was-pink; that one pierced with a silver ring.
She looks out over the sea of students who want to be writers. They are bored, and so is she.
Are your feet bare? Tread carefully, the razor might be somewhere in this sand, or the sword. We should take a photo for the authorities before the tide gets in.
She wants to talk about what was found on the beach, but it’s too obvious. She reads a last poem, one that hints at the theme, and closes the book with her face on the cover.
Perhaps there was a boat, gauze and iodine. Supplies, sack-cloth, a map to a new world.
That, or they swam. Flat chests raving red, brave toward the horizon. The satellite pictures will show a small bloom in the enormous sea, and sharks circling.
Phoebe Wright is a writer and teacher based in Christchurch. She teaches English at St Andrew's College, and Creative Writing at Christchurch Women’s Prison. Much of her own writing is currently shaped by a recent stint of living and teaching in Northern Uganda.