Prose

Swansong

By Emily Olorin

 
 

I perch, trusting eyes locked with your own. I am achingly breathless in the blue that drowns me; I Ophelia, the curve of a lily at the bottom of a lake. A dove staring docile on the branches of a tree, giving its trust for the grain of corn you hold in your palm. There is not even the thought of what led to here; how is that of importance? The blue of your eyes, the tremble of your fingertips, heavy boots for walking, I am fascinated by your extremities. It has always been my weakness, this fascination. My curiosity is that of a cat's, without the lives to back it up.

 

All you need do is beckon, gently.

 

Gently, I take the gold on your palm to my lips. I pause, contemplate. As I swallow, you smile. The kernel dissolves and slides down my throat in a reversal of utterance, words dissolving into glottals and sibilants. My lungs are water and I cannot breathe until you place your palm on my cheek and the chill shocks me to a gasp. I have lost something, but I do not know what.

 

The first thing to go is the clothing. It slides to the floor and I tremble under your gaze, no cloth to shield me. Bare as a bird, I wish to twitter my displeasure, but my lungs disobey and stay silent. I have swallowed my words, or you have taken them, I am not sure which. Mute, I can do nothing but sink.

 

The coolness of your palm slips from my cheek to land on my chest.You make the first cut on my shoulder, it is all I can do to exhale. 'Good girl' you praise.  The blossom of pain crosses my sternum, approaches my navel. What have I given? Myself, my physicality for you to do what you will. I have given you my nakedness, more than just skin deep, my still-beating heart to pluck from my chest. Through no deception have you attained this, and I feel no resentment, just anticipation. Terror, too, sits in my navel, a warm counterpoint to your cold hands. You pass your palms over it - it growls.

 

Your intensity slides over me, freezing water to ice. The paper of my skin is ultimately uninteresting; a million men have had their chance to write on that. You look cursorily at their scrawlings, etched into the layers, and run over a few scribbles with your trembling fingertips. That tremble draws me in again; the illusion of weakness that washes away with the meltwater. You pull back to observe, taking my skin with you. On its inside, a layer of fat glistens away. Still, my lungs are filled with fluid, I cannot move. I am hypnotised by your fascination as you probe deeper.

 

My quaking tendons, straining muscle, are the next to go. Then, plop, the racket of fish guts into a pail, and my ribs peel back as well. Bloodied wings emerging from each side of the wound, framing my true nakedness. Terror flees its cage to leave me empty, expectant, hollowed out with the force of your gaze and ready to be rewritten. You could write your will on every curve of my rib and, buried so deep within me, and I would have no choice but to obey. Instead you choose to leave the cream unetched and focus your gaze on my viscera, your real curiosi.

 

And there it sits. A glistening clot, slightly to the left of my chest. The remainder of the past, flickering, a little bird roosted under the ribs. A slight smile at the corner of your lips twitters back to it, a swansong that only the two of them can understand. Then, hup! With a delicate twist of the wrist (no trembling when it counts - never when it counts), it is excised. You cradle it in your palms as a child and swallow it in one gulp.

 

Am I to be yours, now? I perch in front of you, a robin dyed crimson. Puffing out my chest, I flutter my wings. Does my song now speak to you alone? I open my mouth to speak; the clear vowels rise like balloons.