At the art gallery, a woman
At the art gallery, a woman by Jude Goodwin
Dark things come out of me, she said
and opened her mouth
right there, next to the lemon poppyseed
muffins and chai teas,
parted her thin ribbed lips
and showed me her throat.
It was full of something
coiled. Leaning close to my face,
she rolled her eyes. Her laughter
rose between us on small black wings
leaving a dampness on my cheek.
Later, across the gallery
I saw her passing pamphlets
and brochures to visitors. Nothing dark
apparently, but high above in the rafters
there might have been movement.
She saw me watching
This poem is another masterly chiller, perhaps more explicit than Walter de la Mare would have allowed himself to be in its shock effects. "Her laughter / rose between us on small black wings / leaving a dampness on my cheek" is a sure and swift development of the action, engaging at least three senses. This alarming moment is equally surely back-pedalled as the poem settles: "nothing dark / apparently, but high above in the rafters / there might have been movement."
Peter Bennet, January 2008
The Guardian Poetry Workshop Shortlist