Small Female Skull by Carol Ann Duffy
My dirty fingerprints are all over my bookshelf. I didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe delirious again, looking for my life in poems, chanting, save me save me save me save me save me dammit, then falling back to bed, clutching a book to my chest.
Small Female Skull
Carol Ann Duffy
With some surprise, I balance my small female skull in my hands.
What is it like? An ocarina? Blow in its eye.
It cannot cry, holds its breath only as long as I exhale,
mildly alarmed now, into the hole where the nose was,
press my ear to its grin. A vanishing sigh.
For some time, I sit on the lavatory seat with my head
in my hands, appalled. It feels much lighter than I’d thought;
the weight of a deck of cards, a slim volume of verse,
but with something else, as though it could levitate. Disturbing.
So why do I kiss it on the brow, my warm lips to its papery bone,
and take it to the mirror to ask for a gottle of geer?
I rinse it under the tap, watch dust run away, like sand
from a swimming cap, then dry it – firstborn – gently
with a towel. I see the scar where I fell for sheer love
down treacherous stairs, and read that shattering day like braille.
Love, I murmur to my skull, then, louder, other grand words,
shouting the hollow nouns in a white-tiled room.
Downstairs they will think I have lost my mind. No. I only weep
into these two holes here, or I’m grinning back at the joke, this is
a friend of mine. See, I hold her face in trembling, passionate hands.