Two Poems

The Dirty Yellow Petticoat

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As the body goes to pot, an old man holds on to his memories, silk, satin, cotton, rags, and the naked body of the Emperor parading through the streets of Tatter. Stop jumping on me, Scooter. Sit down, dog. A little confused. They chased me out of town—whom did I never see again?—to the witch’s house on the outskirts. She dressed me in a dirty yellow petticoat and tattooed me with mermaids—big-breasted topless fish-tails what gives me luck. The witch dunked me in her well. I filled up the bucket. She taught me to swim in her reservoir, and to sew clothes from wind and clouds. I was a truthful child with hard lessons ahead. Down, dog. I became such a superlative liar that his Highness the Emperor hired me to sew his clothes. They called me witch-man, because I wore women’s clothes. Now how was I to know which is which? I never saw any man or woman naked.


To Be Recited By Sappho On the Fourth Plinth In Trafalgar Square

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Father Sky, you droop like a used umbrella.
Passersby, attend to this gallant beauty.
Gone, your pigeon riches, no mouldy droppings
pattern the pavement.

Here my holler rings off the stately towers,
bound for Britain’s crown. And resounding sweet as
countertenor solos, my vocalizing
douses the globe with

falcons, fountains, blue-crested wenches, lions.
London heart, I measure your pathways always,
perched pontificating, my arms embracing
skylines and honour.

—Mary Meriam, Eagle Rock, MO