Grace Poole’s version – Nicola Warwick

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




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