by Jemma L. King


Aloïsia by Jemma L. KingThe last time, I came
to as the
coldness surged, like a physical weight
behind my eyes and the metallic tang
of my baby’s blood
gummed my thighs, strung, as they were
with purple strips of livery flesh.
Frau Marten’s cooking pots and bowls
beside my bed were clouded
with a rage of reds,
her hands swift, deliberate-
she twisted a rag, I remember, it sprung burgundy
to the bucket below. She wound it
densely, pushed it within as
I howled, arch-backed as my womb shed the seams
that linted my daughter’s beginnings.


He’s asking me to look the “casual nymph”.
We stare out against the salted breeze,
its incense whipping my eyes to tears – each
follicle springing up to meet the advancing
wave foam and collapse.
This scheme of his, “popular in America” he says.
“Walk towards the sea, that’s it, cock
your hip that way, raise your heel , ever so.”
And I do as he says.
I look beyond to the khaki waves
exploding. Dissolving.


I was once a Catholic
but God has moved on now.
These hips have born bastards
from the seeds of a petty thief,
a man whose life is gin-tinted and scented
with guilt, vomit. His fists
erase the life he doesn’t want
to admit that he lives.


If I could start again,
this seashore would be lipping my
children’s impish feet. I would
chase them and reach
their goose-pimpled arms,
feed them thick slices of brie, the fattest
of hams. I see them now, leaping fish-like
into the water’s kinks and bevels,
shrieking their smiles
to a cold spring sun.


I look beyond to the khaki waves
exploding. Dissolving.
I say their names into the salted breeze,
its incense whipping my eyes.


Jemma L. King

TheUndressed_highres-fullAloïsia was first published in Issue 1 of Bare Fiction Magazine in December 2013.

The Undressed is Jemma L. King’s new poetry collection inspired by a cache of antique nude photographs of women (Parthian Books 2014). King studied the photographs ranging from the 1840s to the 1930s and attempted to return voices to these mostly anonymous women lost to history.

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