‘The Arnolfini Marriage Interrupted’ Jo Mazelis

One flame on the budget candle

In the extravagant candelabra –

Savings must be made somehow…

 

…then stage left, three girls, posh voices –

Fuck it! Let’s go.

We could go to Brum.

We could get off at Hereford.

You’re just so funny. She’s a right laugh.

What’s that?

I don’t know – my jugular?

Throaty laugh, then,

No shit, Sherlock!

Der der der, dut da,

Sung tunefully.

I heard the drums.

I saw a chubby man.

But it was good drumming.

 

Those posh girls, so confident.

 

No shit, Sherlock.

Here’s the web of lies that we’ll

Be courting. Why is the text so big?

Fuck off! They think someone

In Gay Club done it.

 

LGBT rolls off the tongue of one girl, then

 

Fuck off. No shit, Sherlock.

 

All because the train’s delayed.

A good excuse for a bunk off.

 

I think she has charisma.

John without an ‘h’ you’re a music teacher right?

Why not let people with huge potential

On the drums?

 

One flame, though we know it’s daylight,

As in the porthole window of the convex mirror

The room, reduced to an image of itself

In verso, shows the blazing Northern light

Of a winter day.

 

Mr Arnolfini spared no expense on his hat,

Sporting the biggest hat in art history.

His new wife isn’t pregnant

But dressed in fashionable anticipation

Of fecundity. Her green gown a harvest

He, in black, will reap. And…

 

No shit, Sherlock!

 

The speaker explains how she wrote

‘a formal letter of complaint’ after ‘Yvonne’

threw her and her friends out of Morrison’s café,

‘discriminating against us,

Cos we’re students!’

And not because you are loud

And swear incessantly

And talk of spliffs and heroin and

 

No shit, Sherlock, no shit.

 

Privilege comes down to us through history –

Did ‘Yvonne’ get sacked when the formal letter

Of complaint came?

Will the single flame endure?

 

Jo Mazelis is a prize-winning novelist, short story writer, poet, photographer & essayist. Her debut novel Significance (Seren, 2014) won The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize in 2015. Her first collection of stories Diving Girls was short-listed for Commonwealth Best First Book & Welsh Book of the Year. Her latest book, a collection of short stories entitled, Ritual, 1969 (Seren, 2016), was long-listed for the Edge Hill Prize & shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year in 2017.


Words © Jo Mazelis, 2018. Photo of Shani Rhys James © Jo Mazelis, 2018.