Aching with lust. But for whom? I stare.
Me — withered woman, gawping at crowds,
Drooling at soldier crotches … The heat
Inflates me. I scratch at my dress, I tear
At buttons. My body is screaming so loud
“Take me, some man.” I cuff and beat
Myself. I rip my skin, draw blood.
I lean against a lamp-post, spit,
Cackle to myself. A mad old crone.
Dress torn, bleeding from where there should
Be a nice bosom cleavage, but
Breasts have shrivelled. My figure’s gone.
The crowd shudders. A gap appears.
Uniformed men. Weeping. Heads turn.
The crowd ripples in waves. Six men
Carry a stretcher, like bearing a bier.
But the corpse is only wounded. I squirm
Between elbows. People-walls bend.
The stretcher brushes my groin. His wound –
Centre of the chest, exactly where
I scratched myself as my fingernails
Thrust my self-rape on me. Cocooned
In dying, he butterflies in the air
For a last smile — at me — then fails,
Falls, eyes gone rigid, staring-stiff.
In that flicked moment of leaping death,
I felt us join — the blood of our breasts
Blood-brother melding. Like sex. A gift
Of himself. His final snatching at breath
Was a smile at me, an answer of ‘yes’
To my ‘take me.’ His bleeding killed him.
Mine is a silly scratch. No more
Panting at boys. I’ll still be the mad
Old hag on the corner. But now my limbs
Are quiet, satisfied. His war
Is over. Mine too. We are both dead.