—after Anne Carson
It was February or March, I don’t recall. A garden-terrace flat, in the Latin Quarter. The trees wore proud erythrophyll crowns. A sky like cooked cherry tomatoes. It was a red bedroom, or two red bedrooms, plush, foxy carpet underfoot. Encaustic walls with paintings drowned in oxblood
oil paint strokes — everything so red. I could taste the iron every time that I bit down hard on my bottom lip. We had begun, earlier, in a bar in reddest Pigalle — under black striped poppy awnings, mouths raspberry-stained, perched like fiery coquettes on torn banquettes, velvet button-pressed. And those lights — I could not see straight from Pastis and tannic red wine but they strobed in vibrant pillar-box,
flooded the cobbled streets outside like Tricolores in bloody shreds. There is a photo but I couldn’t find it now. Us standing in corsets and jeans, with short blonde hair and the creamiest swan-necks. The guys wore sharp shirts and suits, were brothers, or friends, or lovers — who can ever tell? But soon we left with them and there were only the glaring taillights of the car ahead as we drove into le Pont de l’Alma,
the red car like a cock’s comb leaping forward, handbags as airbags in front of our pale faces on the backseat. Nails painted in Rhapsody in Flame or Chanel Gitanes clutched leather armrests, and we were screaming but no one spoke a single decipherable word — as the driver whooped and we hit 80 kph and caught the smoky petrol
perfume tang of death, and then I saw her, reaching toward the beams, our protectress. A thousand times, I sensed her like a flashbulb in my face. And now here she was, all lit up in silver. Artemis in her chariot. We watched her flex the bow, lunar crescent on her brow. Before the square of light grew larger, I turned to glimpse the torch’s flickering everglow in the rearview mirror.
Of course, in those days you could drive the Champs Élysée at night and park beneath the Eiffel Tower. Hand-break wrenched, red-eyed, when locks clicked open all at once we forgot all fear thought fucking hell, look at the life we lead? Wish granted underneath the monstrous monolith festooned in — you guessed it — red.
The guys pretended to be impressed but their bored expressions said otherwise. While we fielded crimson lights from our tunnel vision, the city wrapped us in her rouge raw arms and we wondered when we would return, drive to wherever — Bastille or St. Germain or some other nightclub on some other back lane.
Does she remember their names? I asked myself, as they squeezed our shoulders a touch too hard with sinewy hands. At the flat trapped in his fiery embrace, the lights on the street outside blinked from green to amber to red and back again. Mine was tender afterwards, I suppose. But later, unnerved by the sight of his crumpled red jacket on the floor like my lost resolve, I snuck away and we emerged,
she and I, from separate wings at the same time. Hair beyond repair, smeared black liner making masks of our cabaret eyes. Slammed the heavy doors behind us with a bang and slipped away into the burnished black cherry night, unscathed.
Lucy Holme lives in Cork. Her poems feature in The Stinging Fly, Southword, PBLJ, and New Irish Writing amongst others. She co-edits new biannual Irish journal The Four Faced Liar and has just completed an MA in Creative Writing at UCC. Her debut chapbook, Temporary Stasis, shortlisted for The Patrick Kavanagh Award, was recently published by Broken Sleep Books.