Hannah Mettner

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The proof of a lady

Katherine Mansfield’s hair is proof.
A sparrowed coil on a cream satin nest
in an acid-free box, in a temperature-
and humidity-controlled room
Alex, who’s teaching me my job,
said we had her pubes in a locket.
Did she cut them off and send them
I ask, or, how did we get them?
For a period of time I know you
dreamed of her, Katie, every night that
you masturbated. Not sexual dreams
though, just
her in a red dress with a square collar
and severe hair, eating pâté and playing
gin rummy with you in a parlour somewhere.
A lost blue earring that you
both spent a whole afternoon
rearranging a sand dune for.
She looked different every time
but you always knew it was her —
pulling you up behind her on a black horse
and trotting you past your grandparents’
house. Once she guest lectured
your literature class.
Remember, you asked me for a loop
of my hair before I had it coloured to something
you didn’t trust. Not creepy, because
I love you, you said, tying it with cotton
and writing the date on an envelope. I wonder
who will find this when I’m dead.
In the archive room, her hair is kept
with her typewriters and an embroidered
Chinese shawl. The parts of her body
start to make sense, her fingers
on keys, her shoulder blades under silk.
We keep what we can of the people we love.
Katie runs a middle finger around the face
of her watch as if it’s a crystal goblet.
The music she makes — you might be
the only living person who remembers it.

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