Hat for Earrings
by Robin Houghton
She wanted cost price – nothing more than a thin twirl of metal
that afternoon as she tweezered me out of stillness,
dripped another microgram of gold into a leather apron.
Two drops alive in her eyeglass, singing of small earlobes -
more ying-yang than half-moon, they question-marked my neck.
Each was a Rodin kiss of a piece. And l, ashamed to show
my piercings, stood at the mirror to swivel no but smiled
and watched myself look forward. What could l offer in return?
A soft cloche for the crown of her head, hand-dyed after hours,
slip-stitched grosgrain, a curl of feather here or there-
she chose the ribbon, the shade of felt, breathed tulle
as l cradled rhinestones. Too much, she said
but winked me on. This was my private work, my mistress-piece.
l saw my chance, and bartered.
Commended prize, 2017