The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
2000 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Second Prize
Adjudicator: Anthony and Ann Thwaite
The “Chicken Girl”
they called you, those whose tutted, clucked
but wouldn’t “interfere” or help
the mother who, moustached retard,
couldn’t cope, left you at home all day,
all night, with feathered foster aunts.
Among the dust, the dried sick smell
of chicken mash, the one square yard
of sky, fluff, yuk, hexagonal eyes
of wire, square yard of sluttish sand…
Aged 10, tiny skull, hands bent back
at the wrist, “unable to communicate
except through head-jerking shrieks”
and, rarely, that self-crooning sound
that dustbath, or contentment, makes…
Perched on the social worker’s lap
I see you, bright disc-membraned eye
(the other side blurred over, scarred
from unhealed flights) staring back
at the camera as at a bottle cap.
Bottom of the pecking order, you stab
and stab at the dry crust of my heart.
Copyright © Keith Chandler 2000
(Editor’s note: Isabel Quaresma was born in 1970 Tabua, Portugal to a mentally subnormal mother).