[Ali Graham] It might have been a metal beaten and rubbed / to a mirror or another austere thing – / navel in the belly of the Venus / of Urbino, postcard of which I have / because if she would / I would. For how she grips roses / not from the stem but above / she is not not like me. When he offered / me beer out of his can / it was a wet and real / yes, cleanest of knowing, a sharp edge / deflected from some inner site / of me. I seethe a high colour. Looking in the window there is a dog, this dog / is hard to imagine, but to do so is to do with hearing / and sustaining even in loneliness. There is a bird / in a living room four miles to the east buffeted against / her window. This dog’s fur grows ermine over / his shoulders though you only see it when his hair is short. He mutters the shape of his whiskers, is deserving, / the world knows when he is hurting. In windows I remember / the start of my body, how when they / said to wait for a man I said / I will make this myself. I smear / assorted medicines on all buildings I am in, / memorise the signs that bring visibility, make / for the sake of knowing it to be there. No one think of the doctors fuck you / and in the hallway I find my rage, / it wears love’s second best t-shirt / and the earrings I stole because work. Because there are good insects calling in the broad day / with a mispronunciation of my name / close enough I will allow. Because I am tilting / over into love of him. Venus of Urbino I would if you would. Our backs turning away from windows – / shut- mouthed – garment of your hands – / the dusk stirring into display. My near-love of him fed to your dog. The bird is four miles / and four hundred and eighty-seven years to the east. I want simple things. I want / to have him beg me in the hallway of the palace of on-demand healthcare. The floor of the ambulance is a cold dalmatian, / and I want to lie with his head in my lap – / stubbled face, limbs and nervousness of a greyhound – here with / me in the shame. Between the weight and metabolism of his head / there would be heat and pressure enough and we would / live just behind in the shame. The words of past medical people who do not want to believe are in the sky menacing the colour away from blue, / the sky refracts in the window, the mouth is only an opening / on the body, inflammation is the body too big for itself. It is a very bad angel from my knees to just / short of my tits. The angel an unholy white with / calcified wings. It flutters its wings, / the stalagmites go through everything. In the sixth hour of the angel visiting / I had selfish thoughts, I was / rendered selfish in the hospital / redesigned to among many things / render people selfish. I was slapping / the snout of any light away, most of my love was blanched out, / the people were in a quantity both too great and small. I wiped my tongue until dry and hygienic / on the sheets, first untreated linen then blue brocade. The paramedic explains I have rated my pain too highly. Inside a hope, the absence of him who I want here is a dog reclining / on my lap, we are looking at this / Venus, every Venus, each is a wrinkle / of me. I am so correct. As a dog is prone to, / his suede-tipped nose wrinkles, he also growls when my stomach is touched. I cannot carry over her expression to a man’s body / so when he is as this Venus, he has no face. / I know him anyway / and spit in his mouth. You will have to / tell me if the angel of this pain has yet / to go off the edge of here. I got on the floor and bawled for a hysterectomy. I was / the big spoon beside my Venus, unjustly obscured. My hair looked so good. I cut it myself / a lifetime ago. Each movement glittered / a separate meaning. My Venus said it is okay / to be approximate and by this / I knew if pain makes me more the shape of a woman then I am a dog and dogged. Then she / gave me back her heart because it was my own. It came over in ceremony, a dish of scraped but unwashed shell – / the salt crusting pearlescent – clumped velvet / of the aorta – knowing I should gift her in return but all I could come to was / the absolute greyest of my enemies. He walked into the garden by some feat of convulsion and I / clung to the roses rather than hold him / until word came that the angel / had left me and had done so / wearing Venus of Urbino’s probable bridal whites. I remember I have made my body / once before. The not believing is a brutality. All the men / meld to a floor tile and floor tiles are more capable of belief. Belief / is an effort. Drawing the good men out of the floor is an / effort. Drawing out the only one I presently / want is an effort. I have him against / a glassless colonnade window in my head, leisurely, / we do not at all wait or budget. He is this Venus, I am / my Venus, my Venus watches with understanding / from the hospital roof that overlooks the palace / while a passing bird shits pure sea salt onto her naked shoulder. I want him in the palace of the oil painting; / by me in the hospital. The want lives in a body picked out of the shadow / by applied gleaming. The light retaliates, the fine edge of either / the beer can or the shell rests expectant on my lip. I will also mention my nipples to him next time, they will be / enunciated against a deep olive green / and instead of milk it is salt out of my tits / and it is so womanly. In the dim taxi passenger seat alone / with the pain medication’s fuzz, I / am in the mirror. I could be someone in this lack of light. There / is the terrier of my heart, foaming ready to maul the pain. She is real and not, all the world in a flash and the drag of nothing, hurt and wait. There is a she who is a well body, nothing approximate / about her, she is picked out in the light. It is so womanly / in each surrender of my good behaviour. It is so womanly / on the surface of this Venus, when love is a glossy coating, when public. When the big spoon. When the roses. When the codeine. When the elevation. When my Venus spits in my dry mouth and it tastes / not like a waitlist, not like some acrid and clothed articulation / of light, not as if the state is happening to me but as if / the state is with and for me.
Ali Graham is a writer living in Norwich. Ali’s poetry and essays have been published by 3:AM, SPAM Zine, The Tangerine, Seam Editions, and Glasgow Review of Books, among others. Ali can be found on Twitter at and on Instagram as aligrhm. Ali likes the films of Maya Derren, the colour grey, and hybrid things.