She wore out her turban of towel
and flinched in the mirror:
this image, she thought, convinces
no-one, including myself.

She imagined a high wire,
a spangled man holding her rigid
as he preened his feet
above a yawning audience.

A tattoo. She wished she were
inked on the arm of a prince,
hidden under the silk sleeve
as a tigress on the Tigris.

One day, pushing a tea-trolley
through a forest of biscuit executives,
she conceived of herself
as a human meringue.

I am not Ann, she informed her friends,
and with a slash of a pen, she
shook herself up by two syllables.
Now she signed herself Annalie.

Across the pampas, over the Caucasus,
the cognoscenti, the telegenic
travellers in passion came trampling
to bask in her ruby shadow.

She blossomed. The ivory fingers
of screen idols and dumbstruck dukes
caressed her. Four letters. They wrote
her truth like icing in a sky.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday

for Mal Harris