Why do you sleep with girls?
My lover Picasso is going through her Blue Period. In the past her periods have always been red. Radish red, bull red, red like rose-hips bursting seed. Lava red when she was called Pompeii and in her Destructive Period. The stench of her, the brack of her, the rolling splitting cunt of her. Squat like a Sumo, ham thighs, loins of pork, beefy upper cuts and breasts of lamb. I can steal her heart like a bird’s egg.
She rushes for me bull-subtle, butching at the gate as if she’s come to stud. She bellows at the window, bloods the pavement with desire. She says, ‘You don’t need to be Rapunzel to let down your hair.’ I know the game. I know enough to flick my hindquarters and skip away. I’m not a flirt. She can smell the dirt on me and that makes her swell. That’s what makes my lithe lover bull-rush-thin fat me. How she fats me. She plumps me, pats me, squeezes and feeds me. Feeds me up with lust till I’m as fat as she is. We’re fat for each other we sapling girls. We neat clean branching girls get thick with sex. You are wide enough for my hips like roses, I will cover you with my petals, cover you with the scent of me. Cover girl wide for the weight of my cargo.
My bull-lover makes a matador out of me. She circles me and in her rough-made ring I am complete. I like the dressing up, the little jackets, the silk tights, I like her shiny hide, the deep tanned leather of her. It is she who has given me the power of the sword. I used it once but when I cut at her it was my close fit flesh that frilled into a hem of blood. She lay beside me slender as a horn. Her little jacket and silk tights impeccable. In my broken ring I sweated muck and couldn’t speak. We are quick change artists we girls.
Which one of you is the man?
Picasso’s veins are kingfisher blue and kingfisher shy. The first time I slept with her I couldn’t see through the marble columns of her legs or beyond the opaque density of each arm. A sculptor by trade Picasso is her own model.
The blue that runs through her is sanguine. One stroke of the knife and she changes colour. Every month and she changes colour. Deep pools of blue silk drop from her. I know her by the lakes she leaves on the way to the bedroom. Her braces cascade over the stair-rail, she wears earrings of lapis lazuli which I have caught cup-handed, chasing her déshabillé.
When she sheds she sheds it all. Her skin comes away with her clothes. On those days I have been able to see the blood-depot of her heart. On those days it was possible to record the patience of her digestive juices and the relentlessness of her lungs. Her breath is blue in the cold air. She breathes into the blue winter like a Madonna of the Frost. I think it right to kneel and the view is good.
She does perform miracles but they are of the physical kind and ordered by her Rule of Thumb to the lower regions. She goes among the poor with every kind of salve unmindful of reward. She dresses in blue, she tells me, so that they will know she is a saint, and it is saintly to taste the waters of so many untried wells.
I have been jealous of course. I have punished her good deeds with some alms-giving of my own. It’s not the answer, I can’t catch her by copying her, I can’t draw her with a borrowed stencil. She is all the things a lover should be and quite a few a lover should not. Pin her down? She’s not a butterfly. I’m not a wrestler. She’s not a target. I’m not a gun. Tell you what she is? She’s not Lot no. 27 and I’m not one to brag.
We were by the sea yesterday and the sea was heavy with salt so that our hair was braided with it. There was salt on our hands and in our wounds where we’d been fighting. ‘Don’t hurt me,’ I said and I unbuttoned my shirt so that she could look at my breasts if she wanted to. ‘I’m no saint,’ she said and that was true, true too that our feet are the same size. The rocks were reptile blue and the sky that balanced on the top of the cliffs was sheer blue. Picasso made me put on her jersey and drink dark tea from a fifties flask.
‘It’s winter,’ she said. ‘Let’s go.’
We did go, leaving the summer behind, leaving a trail of footprints two by two in identical four. I don’t know that anyone following could have told you which was which and if they had there would have been no trace by morning.
What do lesbians do in bed?
Under cover of the sheets the tabloid world of lust and vice is useful only in so much as Picasso can wipe her brushes on it. Beneath the sheets we practise Montparnasse, that is Picasso offers to paint me but we have sex instead.
We met at art school on a shiny corridor. She came towards me so swiftly that the linoleum dissolved under her feet. I thought, ‘A woman who can do that to an oil-cloth can certainly do something for me.’ I made the first move. I took her by her pony tail the way a hero grabs a runaway horse. She was taken aback. When she turned round I kissed her ruby mouth and took a sample of her sea blue eyes. She was salty, well preserved, well made and curved like a wave. I thought, ‘This is the place to go surfing.’
We went back to her studio, where naturally enough there was a small easel and a big bed. ‘My work comes first,’ she said, ‘Would you mind?’ And not waiting for an answer she mixed an ochre wash before taking me like a dog my breasts hanging over the pillow.
Not so fast Picasso, I too can rumple you like a farm hand, roll you like good tobacco leaf against my thighs. I can take that arrogant throat and cut it with desire. I can make you dumb with longing, tease you like a doxy on a date.
Slowly now Picasso, where the falling light hits the floor. Lie with me in the bruised light that leaves dark patches on your chest. You look tubercular, so thin and mottled, quiescent now. I picked you up and carried you to the bed dusty with ill-use. I found a newspaper under the sheets advertising rationing.
The girl on the canvas was sulky. She hadn’t come to be painted. I’d heard all about you my tearaway tiger, so fierce, so unruly. But the truth is other as truth always is. What holds the small space between my legs is not your artistic tongue nor any of the other parts you play at will but the universe we make together beneath the sheets.
We were in our igloo and it couldn’t have been snugger. White on white on white on white. Sheet Picasso me sheet. Who was on top depends on where you’re standing but as we were lying down it didn’t matter.
What an Eskimo I am, breaking her seductive ice and putting in my hand for fish. How she wriggles, slithers, twists to resist me but I can bait her and I do. A fine catch, one in each hand and one in my mouth. Impressive for a winter afternoon and the stove gone out and the rent to pay. We were warm and rich and white. I had so much enjoyed my visit.
‘Come again?’ she asked. Yes tomorrow, under the sodium street lights, under the tick of the clock. Under my obligations, my history, my fears, this now. This fizzy, giddy, all-consuming now. I will not let time lie to me. I will not listen to dead voices or unborn pain. ‘What if?’ has no power against ‘What if not?’ The not of you is unbearable. I must have you. Let them laugh those scorn-eyed anti-romantics. Love is not the oil and I am not the machine. Love is you and here I am. Now.
Were you born a lesbian?
Picasso was an unlikely mother but I owe myself to her. We are honour-bound, love-bound, bound by cords too robust for those healthy hospital scissors. She baptized me from her own font and said, ‘I name thee Sappho.’ People often ask if we are mother and child.
I could say yes, I could say no, both statements would be true, the way that lesbians are true, at least to one another if not to the world. I am no stranger to the truth but very uncomfortable about the lies that have dogged me since my birth. It is no surprise that we do not always remember our name.
I am proud to be Picasso’s lover in spite of the queer looks we get when holding hands on busy streets. ‘Mummy, why is that man staring at us?’ I said when only one month old. ‘Don’t worry dear, he can’t help it, he’s got something wrong with his eyes.’
We need more Labradors. The world is full of blind people. They don’t see Picasso and me dignified in our love. They see perverts, inverts, tribades, homosexuals. They see circus freaks and Satan worshippers, girl-catchers and porno turn-ons. Picasso says they don’t know how to look at pictures either.
Were you born a lesbian?
A fairy in a pink tutu came to Picasso and said, ‘I bring you tidings of great joy. All by yourself with no one to help you, you will give birth to a sex toy who has a way with words. You will call her Sappho and she will be a pain in the ass to all men.’
‘Can’t you see I’ve got a picture to finish?’ said Picasso.
‘Take a break,’ said the fairy. ‘There’s more to life than Art.’
‘Where?’ said Picasso whose first name wasn’t Mary.
‘Between your legs,’ said Gabriel.
‘Forget it. Don’t you know I paint with my clit?’
‘Here, try a brush,’ said the fairy, offering her a fat one.
‘I’ve had all the brushes I need,’ said Picasso.
‘Too late,’ said the fairy. ‘Here she comes.’
Picasso slammed the door on her studio and ran across to the art college where she had to give a class. She was angry so that her breath burnt the air. She was angry so that her feet dissolved the thin lino tiles already scuffed to ruin by generations of brogues. There was no one in the corridor, or if there was she was no one. Picasso didn’t recognize her, she had her eyes on the door and the door looked away. Picasso, running down the clean corridor, was suddenly trip-wired, badly thrown, her hair came away from her glorious head. She was being scalped. She was being mugged. She was detonated on a long fuse of sex. Her body was halfway out of the third floor window and there was a demon against her mouth. A poker-red pushing babe crying ‘Feed me, Feed me now.’
Picasso took her home, what else could she do? She took her home to straighten her out and had her kinky side up. She mated with this creature she had borne and began to feel that maybe the Greek gods knew a thing or two. Flesh of her flesh she fucked her.
They were quiet then because Sappho hadn’t learned a language. She was still two greedy hands and an open mouth. She throbbed like an outboard motor, she was as sophisticated as a ham sandwich. She had nothing to offer but herself, and Picasso, who thought she had seen it all before, smiled like a child, and fell in love.