refuses to look. There is too much. That first night it is too much soot on her face, too much dirt. Rationally she knows that is gone now. She scoured the skin that’s supposed to belong to her cold-water numb. Used anti-bacterial washing up liquid from the shared kitchen. Numb is good. Numb is better at least. Halfway house. They’ve run out of foster carers for her, say she’s big enough and ugly enough (Ha. Social Worker joke.) to be here supervised informally. She could get lots of drugs, but it looks like hard work to maintain a habit. She drifts. She exists. Covers the mirrors. That’s how they get in – the living and the dead ghosts. Best not see. An old blanket drapes the mirror in her room. She’d like to smash the mirror, seven years can fuck off, but knows a bit of her money would be deducted each week for a replacement, even though it’s millionth-hand shit. Something about showing respect being a life skill. Considers shoving it under the bed, but they could watch her through the thin mattress – the ghosts, living and dead. She covers the mirror in the bathroom every time she goes in there, even for a quick piss at 3a.m. Yes, glass mists when you run a bath, but she knows blurrings are lies. The dead ghosts and the living liars. She has to close her eyes, towel it blind. Mornings she breathes deep, split-second calculates carpet strides to the stained glass front door, pelts, fingers outstretched for the latch. No catching her. Living ghosts and dead liars. No catching her face, the ugly, the guilt, the unlovable – her face in the tarnished mirror hung crooked on the nicotined wall. She will not see she is beautiful. Refuses to look, always. This is for life. As she bolts down the middle of the road asphalt sizzles, bubbles and spits under her boots. In February. On the corner a black and white cat with a surprising ginger striped tail watches, carries on washing its ears.
Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, and Under The Radar, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She won first prize in the 2019 Cannon Poets ‘Sonnet or Not’ competition. She co-edits Atrium – www.atriumpoetry.com. Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing. https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/holly-magill/4594330527