I am not a poet. So this isn’t a poem. This a bunch of sentences.
I didn’t think I was soft. I went out of my way not to be.
The soft ones always have wet cheeks.
I mean, I always knew my heart was soft.
So I built walls around it.
Monstrous walls with lookout towers and lamps made with fire. And wood. And rough hands. Soldiers marched around the walls day and night chanting incantations to keep danger away.
There were dogs too. For company.
Because not soft women keep the company of vicious and unfriendly dogs.
I erected signs with warnings.
The entangled barbed wire was a nice touch.
I spoke in discouraging tones to potential suitors.
I sent them on fools’ errands for geese with golden eggs and little green men with money in buckets. They always came back with dirty knees and empty hands from begging cherubs with crossbows for mercy.
Their cheeks were wet.
Then we would get on carousels and ride until they were dizzy. I’d ply them with red water and rub their backs until it was all out. I’d whisper caution into their deafened ears whilst the wind blew in our direction so only the hills would know to stay where they stood. For fear.
We would climb roller coasters and hold our breath until we plummeted from pinnacles so high we would see stars from closing our eyes too tight.
We would run from clowns who smelt like stale conversations and the tears of women who were blue ticked. We would dance too close to the fountain’s edge and get broke from making wishes in wells with murky waters to water nymphs whose business it was to steal dreams.
I ran a circus, you see.
And when the day was done we would sit side by side next to the only crack in the main tent and watch lovers watch lions, and tigers and bears. I’d let them press kisses and steal the joy that would bring by sounding the bell that meant my pumpkin was on its way.
And at night, I would clutch my glass slippers and inspect the walls. The signs. The barbed wire and troops who whistled a heads up to night travellers. To make sure nobody had scaled the walls whilst I pretended to be enchanting.
I would pour the splinters I’d stolen from the crosses the brave ones who got too close now hung from, to keep the fires alight.
Cuddle up to the prickling metal and wait for the next day of adventure. And wonder how much longer my heart could be held by the walls and the wire and the signs and the spells.
I suppose I am soft then, aren’t I?
For if the very core is gooey mush, that takes a thousand mercenaries in boots and helmets to protect, at a cost that is far too high, what does the shell matter? When my pockets run dry and the walls are tired, and the tears of wet faces have eroded the wire, and the charms I bought from the charlatan float into the air like empty prayers to no-one, what do I have left?