after Catherine Smith
By Julie Mellor (UK)
She took a basket and gathered windfalls. Their dead weight
pulled at her shoulders as she lugged them indoors.
She took a bone-handled knife from the kitchen drawer,
the one her father had used to carve the beef.
She sliced the apples clean down the middle, their pips
like tiny wooden lungs.
When the children came home there was nothing to eat
except hard cubes of turnip left over from the lantern
she’d made, the lantern now grinning candle light
in the kitchen window, and slices of apple
sour enough to make them squint.
She removed their squints with the point of the knife,
threaded them with cotton and strung them above the Aga
where they dried like honesty. When her husband came home
she wound the garland of squints around his neck,
told him she was already late, grabbed the bone-handled knife
and fled into the night.
The knife acted like a compass, pointing North.
She followed its lead, walked until the soles of her shoes
wore thin and the wet uppers were soft as cardboard.
Thorns snagged her tights; her white skin shone through the holes
like a scattering of silver coins, or the thumbprints
of her children as they had gripped her wrist.
Another Story won the first prize, African Prisons Project Poetry Competition 2013
Julie Mellor lives in Penistone, near Sheffield, and teaches English at a local secondary school. After gaining a degree in English at the University of Huddersfield, she went on to do an MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam, followed by a PhD, which she completed in 2003. Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Brittle Star, Mslexia, The Rialto and Smiths Knoll. Her pamphlet, Breathing Through Our Bones, was published by Smith Doorstop in 2012.