an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

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Tarot #07
Tarot #06
Tarot #05
Tarot #04
Tarot #03
Tarot #02
Tarot #01

The Wives of Vathek

Some nights we ran barefoot from our rooms
like leopards made of flesh. Past the eunuchs,
dreaming their beige dreams,

then we raced through the palace of perfumes
until we fell dizzy before burning censers,
until we collapsed backwards over rosebushes,

their thorns in our backs
as though we lay over the celestial globe,
studded stars pricking our skin.

Now our husband has lost his mind. Now our husband
looks like a far away man brought very close—
the same blurred features, the same uncertain shape.

We dream of him at the end of long corridors,
running toward us. We dream of losing him in those corridors,
doubling back until we are the chaser; we are the husband-king.

He cries into us like handkerchiefs.
He comes into us like handkerchiefs.
But he does not throw us away. Maybe
            he loves us.

Now nights are longer and smell of burning hair.
Heads down like charging animals
we race through the palace of the delight of the eyes,

horrible nightgown-ghouls tearing up the dust,
eyes squeezed closed. We contract and reform
like a hive mind,
as though our husband’s black dreams
speak to us through the dark,
forming us into murmurations.