George Crabbe Poetry Competition 2023 – 1st Prize
Adjudicator: Tamar Yoseloff
She brought the fire with her, this bird of paradise aching for the tropical heat of her childhood. She lived in her own fierce darkness, her desires jungled and unkempt. She loved the lick of flame on kindling. She had lovely hair, once, before she grew it coarse and loose as an animal’s mane. My feral girl, she wanted it knotted and twisted, a mad-eyed Rapunzel burning for her prince. I kept her safe, in her goblin cell, sang out at night to mask her screams, kept her calm when the master came to stir her up. When he didn’t come, her hands were claws on my skin, her teeth needles to spike me. I tied her to the chair to quiet her. Still, she loved him. I watched the softening of her eyes at his footstep on the stair, the smoothing of her voice in the flicker of his candle-flame beneath the door. She warmed herself with the heat of knives, her wildness kindled by the green wood of his cold, English heart. She was ablaze with want of him, even in her torn and tattered state, believing her ragged dress was as fine and pure as a wedding gown.
Copyright © 2023 Nicola Warwick