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17/11/2016

After

Joanna Hollins

We sleep in one room, long with a single window,
double bed behind the curtain, singles rammed
under the windowsill. Twin beds

cosied up against each other – we dive into them
and roll across the mattresses onto the floor,
raising dust and static crackles, bruising

bony white elbows. The bidet is hilarious,
french is hilarious, bonjour, au revoir,
c’est chaude maman  – so hot

and as my class are doing the Egyptians, we go
to the close-packed rooms of the Louvre,
where the solemn guard of sarcophagi

sends me screaming down the long corridor.
I’m led through the Mummy room, eyes closed
it’s harder for them to get through your eyelids

than through the glass
between their bodies
and ours

There are gendarme on the Eiffel Tower
and they have those strange belt pockets
where I’d probably keep a sword or maybe

pocket money or something but I know
they’re guns although maybe not real guns
and we’re not going up today

(instead we go to the Sacre Coeur
where a spider drops from the dome
precisely onto my sister’s head)

and I’m dreaming of the shrivelled thing
in Room A, of crayon Pharaoh heads,
my brain hooked out of my nose and sealed

in a jar and the lid shutting on my arms
and the musty breath of the Pharaoh
in the sarcophagus with me – and after

the nightmare ends and my mum
has run cool water over my hot wrists
in the hotel bathroom

the nightmare ends and the men
on the Eiffel Tower are still armed and standing
still as stone, binoculars trained on the horizon.

 


Joanna Hollins studied MA Poetry at UEA, and is published in the 2016 UEA MA Creative Writing Anthology

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