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‘Mrs Arnolfini’s interior’

My husband’s seville oranges are ripening
on the window ledge; he punctures and sucks
at them before flinging the pith to the pigs.
When he’s not trading silk, he likes to paint
still lives, nature morte. I know this child’s
another phantom. I gather my dress under my ribs,
rest a hand where its head might be, consider names.
Soon the empiric will come, scratch nulliparous
with his slender feather, make a poultice
for suffocation of the womb. He says my belly is full
of pips inside a ram’s head. My son’s skull grew
askew in my pomegranate place, slipped out cold onto
our red sheets. My husband enjoys fine drapery and fur,
holds my hand too slackly, shows my silver wrist
scars to strangers. I’ve never liked him or his hats.

Rachael Matthews is a UK poet and psychoanalytic psychotherapist currently living and working in New York City. Her PhD research at Sussex University (2014) looked at creativity and mental health. She was born in Derbyshire, grew up in Norfolk, and spent more than a decade writing and broadcasting BBC radio news in London. Her poems have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including the forthcoming collection: ‘Writing on the Moon: Stories and Poetry from the Creative Unconscious by Psychoanalysts and Others’ (Karnac, London, 2017), and she will feature in the January issue of Psychoanalytic Perspectives. She loves remote islands, road trips, and painting with oils.

“Mrs Arnolfini’s interior’ was written as part of Sarah Hesketh’s course ‘Readers of Faces: Poetry as Portraiture’. The prompt called for imaginative responses to a visual portrait, looking at symbolism, background detail, and perhaps giving voice to a marginal figure in the picture.”

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Image Credits:

Jan Van Eyck