BATHING AT GOWER STREET | Isolation and stillness take over in Jo Brandon’s poem inspired by the painting ‘Ophelia’.
by Jo Brandon
Once your ears are submerged you enter a different world. It’s easy to look far away when you are. He says ‘you are a palette of tumbled peaches and sun-bleached poppies.’ I watch my fixed curls dissolve into waves; into foam. Though warm water undoes the knots of living, I keep my limbs stiff; he thinks beauty is most beautiful when it is still (‘animation is not for the immortal’) but my mind wonders and if I am quick I can flick an unseen toe to ripple cooling waters. Beneath me the lamps work as hard as they can to keep the chill afternoon from this tub: I people the space beneath me, between clawed brass feet, with a brigade of elfin men making bellows of themselves for my sake, blowing their warm little lungs out or stoking fires the size of fingernails; splinters for kindling. We keep the light but it toys with him, it keeps me frozen, there are many things not their true selves till the sun is set. He has taken as much of me as he needs into the paint, but every living thing must have a shadow. Rivers run deep on my fingertips, down silt-patterned skin, fields are furrowed on my toes, a flea circus could retire from the metropolis and live off the land on my water-ploughed torso. My hair, like mother’s tea leaves, begins to form unexpected things: violets tightly tangled amongst a bed of weeds, vase-cut flowers drooping, briars gathered about me. Above the water my face has no feeling, beneath it my arms and legs are twice as thick as they were before but I could sink further still, down into another, other, world. I could make an uncanny disappearance, no wet footprints, just a void of darkened hair.
Bio Brandon is a 33 year old writer based in West Yorkshire. She has two poetry publications with Valley Press and a third is due out in 2020. She was the 2018 Digital Poet in Residence for the Bradford Literature Festival and her work has appeared in a number of magazines and journals. Her prime writing time is during her toddler’s morning nap.