The Notched Wing

Helen Tara Hughes – Poetry, Fiction, Film, Phantasms


I am in the place I was this evening,
surrounded by my friends,
but it is not the place it was.

The bright lighting is gone
and it is no longer a mezzanine.
It is a warehouse strip club
in an alley at the end of the world.

The hightops are transformed to long bars
which cut across the space
filled with lines of bearish men, laughing,
punching each other in the arm,
garish women in leopard print coats
smeared red lipstick, and airbrushed claws
laughing raw from their throats
heads thrown back in abandon.

The red velvet curtains that swag
across the few windows are gone,
replaced with one giant red velvet swag
across the back of the room -
fifty feet high, twenty feet wide, thick,
it is both luscious & filthy
it can take you to the alley outside
which looks onto grass and empty lots.
We are at the end of everything
and even if we leave
we won’t know where to go.

The red-headed nymph flits about,
dancing to Cyndi Lauper as the lights
wreak havoc with her hair, and
no one touches her here, she is
too pure, and she will drift into the
field as the dawn comes
to be saved, it is her destiny.
Neon, now pink, now yellow-green,
slashing into the dark space,
I am dizzy with light and colour.

i think I’ve been here before,
i look for the dancers i’ve known, adored,
blonde, brunette Barbies floating as if on air
they are gone, replaced with two gap-toothed sadlings
bitter unhealthy, their ill-fitting wigs slip off their heads
as they dance poorly at the back of the room
as if to welcome you to the worst time
you’ve ever had.

There is a bunny in a top hat with a smeared pink nose
She is lost and her costume keeps sagging,
A man with sailor tattoos leers at her and i want
to help her but i can’t move my feet
Friends disappear into the edges of the room, hiding
fading into the dark walls but I am trapped in the middle
caught by some mystery
as yet unseen.

There is a Photobooth through a glass door to the right,
the contents obscured by gauzy curtains -
I am afraid to go inside, subject myself to the
brilliant flashes. Something tells me
I would be burnt into a million pieces of ash.
No one comes out after the flash goes off
but all you hear is laughter

Your hair is spiked and lit as if in a video game
and I am asking you about Jane

You tell me of how you helped edit her manuscript
when she looked at you and said, despite the abuse,
the mutual boredom, rage, still she wanted you
after all these years, still wanted you and did not
want you and would not let you go. No way.

You tell me of her smell, her taste, when she walked by
you’d drink up her passing, eyes closed, sniffing,
as if she had left droplets of Self in the air
that you were stealing – you are so hungry,
so greedy that my mouth hangs open

I cannot say a word, I cannot speak the words
the words I once had, had practiced and rehearsed
considered and rejected thinking well since it’s not me
would never be me – how could it be, I am so simple and strange -
i cannot walk away, but i am not brave enough to take the fall
i’d always taken before, and always always long for, just that
fall -
i hang in the centre of the room
deer in the headlights of your
raw power
and my own

your eyes are flat, you live so deep
within yourself i cannot guess i would not wish to
really. Pinned by that gaze i cannot move
when you step towards me, closer and closer,
i cannot budge and I am panting, terrified and
excited and every thing i’ve ever
thought about myself or worried
disappears in that stare.
i have no words, no thoughts,
i am here now, only
here now, breathing

Your hand snakes around my back and presses
firm on the laces at my back but i cannot feel your
arm around me – only your hand, only that piece of
me meeting that piece of you so near to the veins that race
through your arms and up into your heart, blood
blue with ambition and lack of oxygen.

My heart is bursting and some part of me bleats again
“you REALLY need to quit smoking” and this does not make
sense to me – I cannot do anything, I cannot move from
my place on this filthy cement floor, I am rooted like a tree, and
now i feel the heat of your body in the cold room, so close and
so far away.

I turn my head aside and your other hand is suddenly tangled
at the base of my hair, fingers twining and moving upwards
curving with my skull until the grip tightens and the move begins,
you are tipping my head, gently pulling my chin up, my eyes see
the dark ceiling split by erratic lightning as the heat of your body
comes near to me in the cold room, a storm of abandon
gathering on my horizon.

You press the length of me, bury your face in my neck and breathe
smelling my flesh as if I am an oxygen tank and you are drowning
as if I am soft and unyielding and I am, I am, oh Lord I am,
my eyes are rolling back into my head
at the press of your nose, your cheeks,
the grace of your hot breath on my throat,
breath, after breath, it is an age, an eternity
and i am losing my sanity, I am shutting down into
pure feeling. This, you, this, you,
too much, too much, too much for me and yet
i am clawing at my blouse, tearing it free
with my nails so the air shocks my bareness
and you are whispering the words “you” and
“perfume” and “you”, interspersed with
my own name intermittently.

as i begin to slip into the spinning tunnel that greets me,
delicious frightening friend of old – i have a tendency
to faint dead away in public places -
i fight, fight, fight just to make this moment hold,
and the last thing i feel as i disappear
is the quick push of breath from your nostrils
coupled with the force
of my own

I wake soaked with cold sweat
alone in my bed.
It is 4:20.

Author: smallboy

Helen Tara Hughes is a writer, producer and actor. An award-winning theatre performer, she cut her teeth in classical and new work at major theatres across Canada, including the Stratford Festival. Her first taste of documentary work – a POV radio documentary for CBC’s ‘Outfront’ – gave her the documentary bug, and in 2009 she transitioned into Producing with the feature documentary, Goodness in Rwanda. As a writer, she has been published by, Eros Digest, and TWISI, and has a book of short stories that will be published in the fall of 2012. As a filmmaker, she creates short films based on poetic writing. She moonlights as an Asst Producer and Coordinator for documentary, factual, and independent films, and is developing a slate of her own media projects for 2013.

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