Delphine is having a mani-pedi


Delphine is in cashmere, soft and plain as flour.
The woman next to her is growing out her colour.
Her hair looks dusted with icing sugar. She is luscious
and plump like marshmallow; part edible baby,
part nosy neighbour. To bite her and watch her teethmarks fade.


Have you chosen your colour?


Earlier, she sat in the jacuzzi and tried to loosen
baby, your ring finger is a driveway I want to
park my car on from her head. Fear is a scoop
of ice cream swallowed whole.


She wants to overflow the sink of her mouth.
There are birds in her throat, opening their beaks.
She mentally drowns the birds. Her toes flex back and forth.


Delphine is unsure whether she would like
the masseuse to find her attractive. She rails
against the massage room music temporarily,
as though disbelieving an anaesthetic would work.


That colour is so you; Delphine is very particular
about her boredoms.


Delphine takes a walk in the grounds, which display
plants chosen for their therapeutic qualities.
The sea breeze is at work on her hair,
a particular kink. Indoors, orchids gather dust.


The fidget of other people’s thoughts is too loud.
Delphine thrusts her hands into her robe in a way
that might be deemed sexual. Would someone watching
feel queasy? she thought. Like watching a man buckle
his belt as he leaves the bathroom. Like watching
a man watching a woman.


Delphine heads to the shoreline, says to herself
‘give up your nerves to the sea’. Says this aloud
in a Sit Back Down-tone, as though addressed
to a child.





Delphine is not dressed for the weather



On the tiny beach Delphine counts how many steps to cross the shore. 113. She retraces her steps, this time picking up all the bits of plastic in her path. 39. Further up the beach she sees a washed-up Halloween pumpkin, the colour of scooped-out sea urchin, a pumice stone look to it. She opens her mouth, feels the wind through her front teeth. I want to be see-through she thinks, and this comes close.



In the hotel behind the beach, her family barters for harmony with the noises each of them are making. Her family push tasks around like something on the plate they don’t want to eat. Conversation is ‘I’ll pay you, if you pay me’.



Things that do not belong in the sea will take on the appearance of things that belong in the sea, given time. The pumpkin is a kind of octopus – a coral disguised as a pumpkin. A hole in the plastic bottletop – a shell you thread onto a necklace.



Snow won’t lie on the shore but Delphine will. She gathers seaweed and wraps her scarf around it. She has a talent for making a bed. She reaches to pull the lace-edge of the tidemark salt towards her.



Last night she lay in the dark in her hotel-room imagination, fighting off a teen sentiment (hips, cassette). The thoughts you have in hotel rooms must be used wisely, decanted into small bottles for later.



Times Delphine felt like a lemon born into a weak summer. Once in a while she was a nib of lemon in a salad of mild leaves.



A man walking his dog leaves the beach. She tests her singing voice ‘diving off a rock into another moment’. Again ‘finally it’s mine’.



Delphine records the sound of the waves and wind. Waves are portable, she thinks, and I am dressed by the wind. She digs her nails into the pods of seaweed; she should have worn gloves.



Someone else’s arrangement of pebbles kinks in her lungs. She kicks at the edge of someone else’s stick-drawn heart, bends to fingerwrite her name in the middle. I’ll take the sand home under my nails.



It’s time to go. She doesn’t want to hear her name called out, as though a dog out of sight of its owner.




Photograph © Gillian McCarthy

In the Valley of Coachella