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By Emma Victoria Miller
The Water Carrier
Last night I dreamt of the house of the girl who drew water,
The girl of the three miracles,
The girl who drowned at sea.
Last night I dreamt of my Manderley,
Not buried nor burnt, nor overgrown,
No fairytale house, it stands strong and plain
But no less beautuful for that.
And I, the goose girl,
With three drops of blood on my handkerchief
Would visit, ignoring the plea of those stains
Believing in the magical change,
In a saving grace, always, always at my fingertips
That I, who had nothing, could conjure
Loaves and fishes to sustain
A lazy Lazarus, who scorned to be raised.
The house was made of gingerbread,
Cut sharp as a blade, and with a flavour
Of something achingly sweet,
But the label was missing –
Eat me –
And its complex spices burnt with tongues of fire.
As, deft as a circus trick,
I swallowed the butcher’s cleaver
And bathed my feet with blood.
Three hundred years of good deeds,
Before water vapour changes to wine,
For all of the sea is now lost to me,
And with it the songs of sirens.
But I may yet whisper tales of Babel –
for the wolf is gone and his house is dust,
The shards of mirror washed clean by the tide,
And the Queen lies in state
On the bed of the ocean, her heart
a mosaic of molluscs.
He swore a transformation
Rendered by love and time,
From the blood lust of a vampire,
To a thirst for holy wine –
“Thou liest” whispered Ariel.
“Nothing” I replied –
But he could live without salt,
And swim against the tide.
I had heard of Herod’s wife
And boldly refused to wait,
So sure it would be his head,
Not mine, upon the plate,
And I danced the dance of seven,
Then told stories till the light,
But every effort to charm him,
Only ignited his appetite.
So finally I offered
Every limb for his delight,
And watched, consumed with horror
My Flesh gobbled out of sight.
But as he gnawed and licked,
Each bone like candy cane,
Then smilingly smeared his face
With the contents of every vein –
Distracted by his pleasure,
At devouring a body whole,
He missed my cry of freedom,
At the liberation of my soul –
Emma Victoria Miller is an academic, writer and illustrator. She received her PhD on depiction of adolescent female domestic trauma in the writing of Iris Murdoch from Durham University, UK, where she now teaches English Literature. Her research focuses on how fiction shapes and develops the young adult female narrative of domestic abuse, with particular emphasis on how the arts can impact upon real world responses to the act of bearing witness and reporting crimes. Her monograph on domestic trauma in the works of Iris Murdoch will be published by McFarland this year. She has contributed to numerous academic collections and journals including Feminist Theory, The Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies and The Wellsian.
She also writes poetry and adult fiction, and illustrates her children’s tales. Her writing seeks to address spaces and absences in the narration of female experiences by reconsidering the stories of the past in order to develop an authentic and socially aware female voice.