I see her in a shaded space on the far side of the street, vixen, stood against her trestle, beneath a tarpaulin that shivers. It is draped and slung with floating dresses, throws and scarves; tie-dye collage against a background of movement, of brickwork, of shapes and faces. She is weightless, appears so, almost painted, wears a suicide fringe two inches above her brow.
The morning sun rivens East Street. It is market day. The far side is soft focus in cool blue shadow, giving the stalls and faces, the business of life there, a sense of a yesterday. This side though is yellow glow, so I weave slowly the crush around me, easy, breathe the sweet September air. I wonder the fractured conversations, beautiful jazz, the rising and sounds, the mysterious and mundane. This orange language becomes mumbled hum, becomes melting honey in my ear.
She wears the pre-dawn pallor of candle wax, the chalk bowl beneath the cheekbone. Soft kohl soaks everything. An inch of pinch in a wrap protrudes from her lips. It is long dead. I have never heard her speak.
Clamped the length of her frame, snug between her palm and armpit, is a large mirror, the trembling surface of which swims with the living as they pass. She has her Picasso gift – appears to look in one direction but looks the other.
A slight girl, a Jay of a girl, a strap of cornflower plumage revealed on the breeze, peels away from the crowd, drawn to something on the trestle. It is a simple dress of umber needlecord, hung from a wire hanger. She brushes the cloth, almost rests an ear on her own shoulder, studies a wooden button as if it were chocolate.
Vixen, mercurial, appears at the Jay girl’s side. She unsheathes the fluid mirror in one easy motion that collects briefly the whole of East Street, holds it up in a succession of angles around the girl, captures her in flashes of cornflower, of corduroy, of her pale shape. It is a slow and sinewed dance, a seduction. The Jay girl cannot help but admire herself in the glass: here, here, from here, here.
The fox is professional, beguiling to watch. The Jay girl, realising at last that she has been subtly ensnared, blushes. She says something warm throated that is impossible to make out from here. There is no answer but for a hinted smile. The dead inch wrap twitches. The Jay girl replaces the dress and turns her attention to another item that has caught her eye on the next stall and is gone. The mirror is sheathed and the vixen returns, in one, two, three dance steps to where she started from. She is looking in the other direction, but she sees me.