Jessica E. Wragg

Tag: poem

My best friend and I, in the bathroom.

An ode to the best friendship that I have ever had. 

I am lying upon your bathroom floor, all cold stone and grouted tile, stray hairs of your flatmates caught in my fingertips and your bedroom pillow beneath my head. Staring into the spotlights my eyes well slowly, blinded by the brightness and you dim them, light a wilted candle in a vase which flickers in the movement of your towelled dressing gown.

“Don’t put your fucking foot in it.” You say, and I don’t, I move myself a few inches away and turn over whilst you get into the bath. You are a slim, small outline in the mirror. I am not supposed to see you naked, but I have, and you are wonderful.

As you lower yourself down your shoulders shiver and you grimace from the hot water and make me turn on the cold tap. I stretch to reach, I am not looking, but my face ends up dangerously close to the toilet and then to the plughole and so I roll over on to my back and let you figure it out.

And then there were are, listening to music from my phone using the grubby white bidet as an amplifier, and the bond between us seems tangible and touchable somehow as you bathe yourself and I listen to trivial details about your day, hanging on your every word as though I depended upon in, upon you, upon us. We talk about him, about her, about them, about that, and somewhere within the wet steam rising from the tub I think: how lucky I am, to be here with you.

We hold hands in the cinema, cuddle in front of the television, re-enact the sex we had with the men the night before using the cushions from your sofa, binge eat fifty pieces of fried chicken and wallow with our gorged stomachs. There is no subject too much, no small piece of stone that we would leave unturned for fear of shame or judgement.

We are two best friends, two sisters in the bathroom. Your body is my body, and my voice is your voice, and I am writing about it now only as a writer can, propelled by love and admiration, fearful that things will ever change. If I could only choose you for life, know that I would.

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Open call for London-based women.

I’m looking for London based women to take part in an art project I’m working on.

Entitled ‘Any Place’, the work will be exhibited on my website first and foremost, and will feature portraits of 50 women along with the most ordinary or unnerving place they have been sexually harassed or assaulted.

The idea behind the project is that to viewers, it will look as though the women have been asked a far more mundane question – perhaps ‘what’s the strangest place you’ve kissed someone?’ or ‘name a place that holds some significance for you’. In actual fact, the answers across the board will prove a far more sinister point – that sexual harassment can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time.

As an example, my portrait would have ‘In the cold room of a butchery’ below it.

I’m looking for 50 women or all ages and backgrounds to take part. You must be somewhat London based, and be happy for me to meet you and take a head and shoulders picture. It goes without saying that you must also be happy to speak about the harassment you’ve endured.

This is a hugely exciting project for me which, if well received, will hopefully go on to become something bigger. If you’d like to get involved, please contact me via my ‘Find me‘ page, or email me on jessica.e.wragg AT gmail.com

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you.

Jessica

Upon my body.

Take me in your hands of sugar
and kiss the tepid light, sweet
to the tongue and rhythmic on my tastebuds
like a samba dance.
Read my laughter lines and my love
lines and then tell me I’m going to die.
My life line disappears, somewhere
around my thumb.
Tell me honestly if I am sunburnt,
and I’ll let you know if I think that
you spend too much money on jeans
and beer and fast food. Peel back
the dead skin, make way for new life
upon my ankles.
Heal the scar on my kneecap with
your mouth, leave a kiss print in spit
on the joint.
My lips are dry.
My skin has stubble.
My nails are bitten.
My hands are rough, but with you
they glide softly across your back.

Origins

I wrote this piece as part of a larger project, imagining the origins of London and some of the world’s other biggest cities and the effect that human emotion could have taken on it. The environment and its decline, to me, is one of the biggest issues facing our civilisation at the moment in time, and it’s influenced a lot of my writing recently. 

————————————————————————————————————-

There is an ocean, which laps at my shoulders
softly. Prodding me, sending foam sailing across
my skin with every wave. Dull green weeds clamour
the base of my neck like a crowd at the gates.

Forcefully treading water, gently paddling the surface
for four feet deep in ten, my toes curled so as to
not catch the snuggle-tooth coral below, or perhaps the church
spire pushed from the sand like straight, proud shoulders.

And yet, for all the salt, I still taste the dead city.
The sea took it, replaced it with nothing, built water
on its rooftops, covered its head with a bed of sand hidden
between the kelp that travelled here by accident on a current.

The smell is not salt water and plastic and scum it is
saffron, jasmine, myrrh floating through the water on
a bubble of air from the deep. With every shift of
earth comes the perfume of a lost civilisation.

There is an ocean, which laps at my shoulders,
whispering a secret that I already knew. The stories
of children climbing buildings to escape the water,
their fingers scrambling on smooth marble to get higher.

Of the elderly women, so taken by the flood that they
took cups from their kitchens, scooped them up in their hands
and tried to drink it away, expectant and wrinkled fingers
grasping at the china, realising when it was too late.

It did not take minutes for the water to rise, it took
weeks, months – so long that the King himself
did not see it until he got out of bed one morning to find
his slippers not where he left them, but floating by his dresser.

Thin like matchsticks, thick like fists, buildings toppled down
like pins against a giant ball. My father told me the stories whilst
my mother hushed him through the violence. I came here first
looking for survivors but found only schools of fish. My brother

had told me that they were the people – turned into creatures
by the Gods for disobeying them but I know that they are just fish.
I know the stories too well; of a city up in flames, rotting from
the inside outwards, crumbling slowly into pieces like Sodom.

I know the stories of a city which did not see the flood until the
King had lost his rabbit fur slippers. I sometimes see them
on the horizon, still floating on the surface,
heading out in search of a new pair of feet to keep warm.

Grapefruit.

I am lying on your table; all chrome, steel, polished metal. My back is cold, slipping downstairs in my hospital gown of turquoise polyester; like a child in their mother’s clothing. Your eyes are cased behind thick lenses, magnified, large and questioning. Thick rimmed glasses. All the while I am watching your hands.

They are soft and ageing badly, tanned on the back and pale palms with yellow cuticles. You’re patting my forehead beneath the hair that I did not push away.

It is a strong blade, a sharp one. Cutting slowly you slice me in two, straight down the middle, and open me up like a grapefruit. I am glistening; my pink, red, purple innards looking upwards towards the ceiling of styrofoam squares and oddly placed light bulbs. I blink madly in the false light.

My middle is off-centre, my legs splayed outwards like the thrown down toys of a child, my stomach is a round thing. Peel back my skin – the shrill sound of cutting echoing back and forth against the plexiglass. I watch, you reach inside. Past the wet warmth of my liver and stomach, which spit like a spoon bursting the sweet flesh of an orange; bitter rind and sweet insides. You are smiling behind the cotton face mask, I am waiting for you to lick the juice from your chin.

Not so much

Not so much going, but fleeing.

Arms, wild and frantic; hands,
gripped around my wrist;
tongue, a thick muscle, vibrating
from your screams above the
crackling and spitting and hissing
of the flame.

Not so much quiet, but silence.

Your vacant suit, hanging limp
from the wardrobe, clinging
to the wire hanger; all frayed
cotton and your gold and green
cuff links still attached. You looked
smarter in the box.

Not so much smell, but a fragrance.

Your pillow, like hair and sleep
and drool. Unwashed pajamas and
crumbs from our breakfast.
A plate on the table, and your half
finished can on the floor.
Your side; covers thrown back.

Not so much shouting, more shrieking.

Lit up in orange, your hair went
first. I laughed when I saw you, bald
and pale. They did their best,
made you up well – the burns are
noticeable, only to me. You couldn’t
stand the pain of it.

Not so much lonely, but alone.

Soft lines of our floorboards,
waiting for their creak; caramel and
chocolates, ten cups of tea, the
pleasure of dinner alone. My food,
not yours. A terrible longing;
no one to sleep with.

Not so much forgetting, more ignoring.

Taking down your photos, waiting
for you coming home. The six o’clock
bus, heels on the pavement, the
phone with your mother. Your key,
the click of a door, a gush of cold air.
Waiting for nothing.

Not so much broken, more cracked.

 

Your Vase on my Mantlepiece

Thin like toothpicks
Thick like fists

You came from fire,
“Time are changing.”
A baby, staring up at a cotton
canopy, the centre of everything,
the beginning
of nothing. The ceaseless
stars of lightbulbs, leaves
of stitching and wood and

unforgiving photographs.
You smashed pottery on the ground,
smiling as it fell
to pieces before it landed.
You ground it by hand like
spices in a pestle. To dust.
It was so easy.

You never mentioned it again.
You would do the same
with wood if you could but
you say you can’t because of
splinters.

After 10 years of waiting
you scatter it like ashes and
make me pick it up again
piece by piece until I have
something that looks like
it could have been
might have been a vase.

The colour red, a kiss on
my hair; two cups of tea, a new
pair of jeans, a terrible
homesickness;
finding someone with my
birthday; scraping hair from
my carpet, wood
like chocolate, smooth lines
straight lines, blood from a
cut; letterpress greeting
cards, my new
winter coat.

Your vase on my mantelpiece.
I take it down during storms.