Your body is a house stripped from the pages of Gothic novel. There was a fire once, in the hearth of the home, and it burned through the soft furnishings. It took with it the comfort of crushed velvet curtains and the grand armchairs you once enjoyed quiet afternoons in. The books – oh, the books you lost: Great Expectations, Persuasion, As I Lay Dying. The shelves bowed against the heat and were buried under the weight of hot paperbacks and hardcovers. Your body – the house, that is – became an origami structure where one room folded or fell neatly into another. Things that were once upstairs now sat in the belly of the building. The skylight was no longer a panel but the whole head of your structure; fragmented and gaping with crisp white remains around the edges. Cracks between blown-out windows and their frames whistled with every wind that ran through you, and for a long time that was the only noise.
The authorities investigated what had caused the fire, citing several points of origin. The kitchen seemed the most likely space – with the wide-open mouths of angry pots and the fury of the stove. There was always something to be cut and cooked and force-fed, and it wouldn’t surprise you if the constant stream of steaming foods had led to this – it was a theory you kept to yourself even though others mentioned it, too. Although, of course, there were those who accused you of being the cause – as though you’d do such a thing, and to your own
Charley Barnes is a poet and author based in Worcester, UK. She lectures in Creative Writing at universities across the West Midlands, teaching in both poetry and prose. Her work is widely published across journals and in print, and her latest novel, Play, was published in April 2020.