The North Georgia Gazette
Mr. Hooper, the ship’s purser, his body entwined: arms behind, beck arched, his face the direction of his back. Enter, Mr. Wakeham, offering assistance. An improvised corset is now in play, half laced around Hooper’s upper half. Mr. Hooper feels pretty in his deshabillee. In spite of himself, Mr. Wakeham, a Romantic, feels virile, full, vertical like an English pine. Mr. Wakeham entwines the ends of the strings, twirling his two digits round in equal opposing circles, spiraling the string around them, layering inch over inch of the tawny, filthy fabric, until they wound up tight like a ball of string with fingertips in the core. He pulls back, bracing his feet on the floor next to Mr. Hooper, his pelvis jutting in slightly as his torso leans away, tightening. He feels the resistance of the corset fabric and pulls decisively and hard, the burly forearms, the weathered palms, but with a touch of graceful sensuality, the kind possessed by a woman over textile.
He pulls, exchanging corset strings for the proximity of his pelvis. The string pulls. The pelvis pushes. The light from his lamp where he had set it down illuminates the tendons in Mr. Hooper’s tilted, arched neck and Mr. Wakeham stumbles across the image of the straight Grecian bridge of his nose sliding down against it, spreading its slick grime against Mr. Hooper’s clean white skin like a butter knife on a fresh slice from a steaming loaf of bread.
The corset string snaps, the back half unravels and drops to the floor, lost among the folds of Mr. Hooper’s petticoat. Mr. Wakeham, spluttering, apologizes profusely, searches blindly, laboriously, through the dense, entangled sheets of Mr. Hooper’s bottom half. He juts his glance at Mr. Hooper helplessly, crouched on his knees, searching, desperate, fumbling. “I can’t seem to find it down here.…” From his eye, a tony strip of paper, balled up, floats down at the speed of a weighted, meaningful pause and Mr. Wakeham catches it. Mr. Hooper asks honestly in a shy voice:
“Do I look like a woman to you, Wakeham?”
Lily Robert-Foley is the author of Jiji (Omnia Vanitas Review 2016); m, a book of poetry-critique-collage (Corrupt Press, 2013); graphemachine, a chapbook of visual poetry (Xerolage, 2013); the creative annotations for The North Georgia Gazette (Green Lantern Press 2009); Frozen Assets, a work of experimental translations of snowflakes cut from bank loan papers (APR press, 2014); and the Soloflex poem, a poetry blog that asks if poetry can help us lose weight. She is the translator of The Room Under the Willow Tree by Sophie Loizeau (To Press, 2016). She teaches for money.