The Magic Skin Trilogy


Blessed Charlotte Tilbury
kneeling over the holy well

the bell of St Mark’s is etched
with an ancient Sheela-na-gig

big legs astride the clapper
I have done rubbings, variously clear

but moss-grown stone can’t be
called lapidary no more no more

tugging on the old rope of the old bell
taketh its toll & now calloused hands

dangle uselessly, a thick leather mitt
hiding a Vaselined claw-of-a-hand, like

the hennaed heart of the Monseigneur
whose brother died of Legionnaire’s disease

after a trip to Lebanon where he breathed
in the droplets of a faulty air conditioning unit

it is easily done in the Holy Land where we
sat down and wept & also in Caffé Nero

whatever happened to whatever happens
in Lebanon stays in Lebanon although

I had a “moment’ on the road to Damascus
after which I wrote numerous letters

better not to dwell on it, the bells & whistles
of those epistles are not to everyone’s taste

not like toast, which is now taken Chekka-style
with an oily hummus on an empty stomach



breaking one’s fast without a sip of water first
is not to be tolerated, like bare arms

there are charms to a quivering tricep suspended
from a floral sleeve or spread along the back of a pew
a slew of loose flesh best pressed downwards
on a bed while forearms reach & hands grab

the grip & hinge of desire fells one like a kick
to the orchids in a field of common buttercups

one winces at the wanton destruction
of frail beauty, full of grace

a case in point: the beatification of
Mr Simms for his sweet & floral gum



dawn breaks in the eastern Med
where the sweets are honeyed & pistchioed

I will go with you to the hammam
Madame with black soap

with abrasive mitt, a face pressed
against the tiled floor

pour your buckets of water & the fattest
girl will be presented with a rose in return

for a rough towel, or a rough towelling
which is something quite distinct

the linked arms of the men, smoking in
the coffee shops of Lebanon, near cedar trees

these things are forbidden in the blue & black
caves of Nero, where the air is sterile

and free from droplets containing Legionnaire’s
disease or atomized sweat running over Adam’s apples

the dappled light plays on the pavements of Beirut
where Our Lady of the Fading Light

beams at the women walking on their knees
in atonement, weeping gratitude for the glorious

light-reflecting particles of foundations
which are multi-transforming and restructive

their cheeks smell of rosehip oil, of frangipani
their luminosity is boosted, their glowing faces

the loci, the places of worship where they
drape their skin loosely across the skeletons of faith.




[Rachel Sills has published two chapbooks, Two Hundred Houses (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2015) and Endless/Nameless, co-authored with Richard Barrett (Red Ceilings Press, 2014), as well as work published by zimZalla  (Modernist Jewellery), 2015. Her poems have also appeared in 3:AM Magazine; Otoliths; Red Ceilings; Tears In The Fence and Stand Magazine. She is the co-organiser of Manchester-based poetry reading series ‘Peter Barlow's Cigarette’, and has a PhD on Frank O’Hara's poetry.]


Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Sills, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.