Nicole Acquah: Porphyria Extended

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I found

A thing to do, and all her hair

In one long yellow string I wound

Three times her little throat around,

And strangled her.

– Porphyria’s Lover, Robert Browning


Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the greatest show you will ever see. Bobby and Rosanna! You are in for a treat tonight…

Pardon me; it seems I have made a mistake. Bobby and Porphyria everyone! Now sit back for an act that will knock you off your feet!


A pathetic stream of light dribbles through the open window and the lace curtain breathes. A pale wash of yellow covers the floor, illuminating the spider webs. A smell stains the air like red wine.

You are used to my humble abode; you know my childhood home is a place I’ll never part with. It was here I played Happy Families until I could keep up the facade no longer. Now all that remains is this dilapidated building – the charred ruins of a family scorched apart.

You’re startled when you turn around and see me. You clasp the lock of hair in red hands that tremor.

This is your fault. I told you not to open the box. But you’ve always been curious, haven’t you? My own thrill-seeking feline. My Pandora.

You waited until I was asleep. Clever girl.  Did you think I wouldn’t wake as you scoured my room? Did you forget about the jingling of keys as you removed them from their resting place? I saw your every move. I saw you break into the box and remove the strand of hair. I saw you putting two and two together.

Your voice croaks as you ask me why, what, who?  Especially who. Who is she? You don’t seem to understand that prying and petulancy are ineffective aphrodisiacs. You say finding a lock of an ex-lover’s hair does that to you. At least you haven’t discovered the body.

I try to calm you down. All the while I am approaching you. Pandora –

You’re adamant that’s not your name. Just as Porphyria said she wasn’t Porphyria. Women, such liars.

I pry your fingers open and take back my prize. I cannot stand the thought of your hands on her perfect locks. I replace the hair in the box and slide it back into my closet.

Did you break up with her? You say.

I think of the body, pale and eroding.

You could say that.

My lips skim across your cheek, and then your collarbone just visible above your cherry red dress. You shiver. My Pandora is a bubble kissed by needlepoint. We sit together and I mourn that your hair is not. Long. Enough.

The fire cackles, delighting in the secrets between us. The floorboards give us splinters.

I think of yellow string necklaces, of pale shoulder puppets.

You say you have to go. I say: Stay. I push you down onto the ground and I think you’re crying but I can’t tell because I’m not looking at your eyes, but your throat. I’m kneading thick, gasping dough. It spills between my fingers.

I prop you up and place you on my shoulder, marvelling at how warm you feel. Rosanna Porphyria was never this warm. I sigh.

One dead body is poetic. Two is inconvenient.


Ladies and gentlemen – wasn’t that the greatest act you’ve ever seen? A round of applause for the ladies perched upon his shoulder please – the lovely Porphyria and Pandora. A round of applause for our ventriloquist; master of puppets…

No? Not Porphyria and Pandora? Well then. Who the fuck are they? Let’s ask them, shall we? Who are you? Tell us if you can. What’s your story?

Ah! Well these are true professionals, ladies and gents. They maintain their silent act! Let us not knock down the fourth wall, as it were.

A round of applause for them then! Bow, bow. Laugh, laugh. Clap, clap, clap. Bravo.

black tree

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Photo by Tomek Dzido


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