All The Dead Girls
Did any of us have a sense of foreboding
when we first glimpsed the
imposing Victorian mansion that
was to be our home? Our tomb?
Up some winding stairs I was
shown a sepia photograph of a
misty- eyed girl wearing a straw boater
and a blouse tucked neatly into
a long skirt. No suffragette she.
`That’s Emily - she died ages ago.’
`Oh she drowned in the lake.
There’s supposed to be a whirlpool
which sucks you in. Which is why it’s
strictly out of bounds.’
The next time a girl disappeared
I knew her. Andrea, glamorous, wild
Andrea. The girl that had hung
a tampax around my teddy’s neck.
A ritual lynching for the new girl.
I withheld my homesick tears until
The lights were out and the giggling
had quietened. I had passed Andrea’s test.
On my second night she mysteriously
led me to the dormitory window and, pointing
to the illuminated town, she looked at me -
her face alight with teenage dreams.
`That’s where life is kid. That’s where
it’s happening. All of it. Everything.’
But Andrea was suddenly not there.
She was spoken about in snatched whispers.
Mentioning her was forbidden.
She had done something unspeakable.
She had died because of it.
And one day, one night, it was my turn.
I was clutching at Andrea’s shadow
and had followed the lights.
I had fallen in love with a Scottish lad
from a council estate.
I was locked in the sick bay
because I was so contaminated.
My father arrived, grey
and grim, and hurried me out.
I wondered if I should have a blanket
over my head. Or wear a shroud.
Emily, Andrea and I had all died
from our yearnings,
and of course my death
would not be