I haven’t taught her,
that girl now in the mirror,
who is both mine and not clearly
mine, how I’m relieved, glad she hasn’t
had it: all that anticipation turning into dread.
The first kiss didn’t happen. But it wasn’t a dodge
followed by the excuse of a mouthful of crisps, knowing
how much they – boys – wanted it but would rather suck salt
and flavouring with the smell of stale feet than have my lips near
their face; it wasn’t in the corridor overlooking the sports hall, before
they filled it with easels and I painted my womb out there, with his fat,
sloppy tongue pushed like an electric eel, stunning me into accepting his
unwanted gift, and all the while wondering if he’d rubbed the mask off
my pimples or could feel the regrowth of my moustache, or whether
he’d mind my wearing a long-sleeved top that fastened in between
my legs, so he couldn’t slip a clammy hand as if between pages of
Herland, to cup my unpadded breast. I haven’t said to her: the
myths we read, fairy-tales, novels, magazines, comic strips,
history books and the internet, only taught us to examine
ourselves, fear our reflections, fight ourselves, but it is
men we have to observe closely, look for over our
shoulders. It is him we need to see coming in
advance of them setting their sights on us.
We must adjust ourselves for attack;
minister girls with glasses, foxed;
we must learn to adapt, use
Viking period silver amulet of the Norse goddess Freyja
—Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm
They buried me as befits the most prominent fucked-over,
with my treasure intact and a heavy pendant which they say represents a völva,
a seeress, wearing a horseshoe-shaped necklace,
who appears to be pulling a moon, and may in fact depict your dear disgraced.
Rachel J. Fenton lives in Auckland. Her most recent work can be found in First Fox (The Emma Press), The Rialto, The Lonely Crowd, The Valley Press Yorkshire Anthology, and forthcoming work will appear in Bonsai: The Big Book of Small Stories (Canterbury University Press) and Landfall. She was runner up in the Ambit Summer Competition, and is currently working on a graphic biography of Mary Taylor, Charlotte Brontë’s best friend, with funding from Creative New Zealand.