Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Sorceress to Live Exodus 7:11
For her neighbour’s sickness
was more than merely unnatural;
for he sang perfectly without moving his lips.
For she is intemperate in her desires
and pilfers apples from the orchard;
for she hitches her skirts to clamber the fence.
For her womb is a wandering beast;
for she is husbandless, and at candle time
brazenly trades with the Devil.
For she spoke razors to her brother;
who has looked upon her witches’ pap
and the odious suckling imp.
For the corn is foul teeth.
For the horse is bedlam in its stable.
For the black cow and the white cow are dead.
The Little Venus
Gentlemen, the Venerina is a dissectible young woman
presented voluptuously in her ﬁnal moments.
She has been cast for your instruction –
see, her organs are dislocated layer by layer.
The heart was her undoing – observe the walls:
too slight to sustain her through her twentieth year.
Yet how charming the rope of pearls at the throat –
the throat itself a repository for kisses.
Now scrutinise the sleeping foetus in the womb.
Cradle it so you might feel a waxen effigy of life.
Housewife Psychosis: The Dreams of Katharina Bauer
In the dream I am shut
in a bright clean room
where a neat square window
holds the Danube like a thought
attempting to part
for the black sea,
but the will of the window
I write this in my notebook
slice out the page
lay it down in the grate
and then strike a match.
In the second dream
the house burns
with electric light.
A gilt-wood angel
spreads its wings
above the roof
and stares down
on my dull crown
with fervent incivility.
A mound of ashes
in a morning room corner
puts on my father’s coat.
I take up my broom –
sweep and sweep until
my hands are blistered raw.
In the third dream
I am shining the silver
of every smoke-tainted
coffeehouse in Vienna.
Spoons queue up –
on the first day of term –
I polish their faces.
All of the girl-children
are folded lace parasols
packed up in a casket
at the back of the nursery.
I arrived at the station
in my last dream
to find a whole continent
darkened by smog.
No one was waiting
and none approached me.
I saw my outline sketched
by a careless hand.
Katharina Bauer was the mother of ‘Dora’ whose real name was Ida Bauer, subject of Freud’s Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (‘Dora’), 1905. Freud dismissed Katharina as ‘an uncultivated and foolish woman’ who fell victim to ‘housewife psychosis’ when conﬁned as many women were, to the domestic sphere.
9 Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Sorceress to Live
10 All the Suckling Imps
12 The Kept House
14 Wunderkammer with Weighing Scales and Hospital Bed
15 Beggar Dark
16 Wunderkammer with Black Coffee and Ghost Moth
17 Wunderkammer with Escher Stairs and Cheshire Cat
18 Housewife Psychosis
20 The Fainting Room
22 The Little Venus
24 Dissecting Venus
26 Baba Yaga No Longer Reads the News
28 By Water
29 Female Casebook 6
31 The Parlour Maid
32 Labourer’s Wife
33 The Elevation
34 Walking Backwards
36 Farmer’s Wife
38 The Boatman’s Wife
39 The Housekeeper
40 Wunderkammer with Needle Girl and Tool Kit
41 The Dolls’ House Mysteries
43 Doll Hospital at the Top of the Hill
44 Wunderkammer with St Dymphna Tea Towel
45 The Reformed Woman
46 Wunderkammer with Homestead and Aeolian Harp
47 Ordeal by Water
48 Wunderkammer with Ophelia and Hospital Bath
49 Wunderkammer with Glass Plate Photograph
51 Selling the Wind
52 The Hanged Woman Addresses The Reverend Heinrich Kramer
54 Scold’s Bridle
55 Hellish Nell
56 Six Signs You Might Be a Slattern
57 The Goddess Gets Her Close-Up
59 Anger in Ladies &c
'Helen Ivory creates a troubled yet beguiling world rich in irony and disquiet. She possesses a strongly-grounded narrative voice which, combined with her dextrous transformative takes both on reality and on what lies beyond reality’s surface, puts one in mind of the darker side of Stevie Smith who said that poetry "is a strong explosion in the sky".' – Penelope Shuttle.
'She is a visually precise poet, with the gift of creating stunning images with an economy of means…Ivory has established an eerily engaging style. Her poems are like mobiles suspended on invisible threads, charming to watch as they seem to spin by themselves in the air, but capable of administering more than a paper cut on the sensibility of the reader.' – James Sutherland-Smith.
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