Pastrama by Angela Readman

The afternoon I saw your wife, I left my purse in a taxi. The driver waited outside, pouring sugar onto his hand. He strolled over the cobbles to feed the horses outside the distillery. I could hear nothing but nuzzles, rolling breath in his palm as I opened the disused stable door and left the lock hanging on the bolt.

   The woman was stored alongside a strong man’s barometer, kissing booth architrave, and a candy floss sign. I couldn’t lift my eyes off her, your wife. This taxidermy of years of your life, the carnival of your youth. I knew you were a manager, toured the world. I didn’t know the show continued after she died.

  The baby lay in her arms, small as the stuffed monkey clashing tin cymbals in the window of a toy store. The pair were covered in down, whiskers all over their faces feathered in dust. Their hands had not preserved well, their fingers made me recall being loaned your leather gloves, so big for my hands, still warm from yours, brushing snow off my shoulders as we stepped into my cottage that first time, so politely, stamping clods off our shoes.

   We are all so close to being gorillas, I thought.  Pressing my hand to cold glass case built around your wife, I pictured an ice hotel hosting a convention called LOVE. Here, people would scroll paper tickets, perch on the balls of their feet to see love on display. This is what a woman who loves a man looks like the billboard would say. People would pay to see it, yes, even me, woman after woman in polished glass cases. The feeling in my stomach was cloaked by velvet, the way you look at me kept closing the curtain around it. I couldn’t see myself inside the case, looking out I could barely see you.

Angela Readman's poems have been published in journals including The Rialto, Ambit, Magma, and Popshot. They have won The Mslexia Competition, The Charles Causley, and The Essex Poetry Prize. She also writes stories, her collection Don't Try This at Home won a saboteur award, and The Rubery Book Award in 2015.

Angela Readman’s poems have been published in journals including The Rialto, Ambit, Magma, and Popshot. They have won The Mslexia Competition, The Charles Causley, and The Essex Poetry Prize. She also writes stories, her collection Don’t Try This at Home won a saboteur award, and The Rubery Book Award in 2015.

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