THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2003

 
Pauline Rowe
SONG OF SIXPENCE
  1

Older than America when I first prayed for my release
from hard work, duty, the weight of actuarial and statistical calculation: though the task that's set
may alter with the telling, it will never cease. My frozen life - all gold and silver, weight and tabulation.
I was served by crews of mean, ambitious men.
I was served fine feasts of dishes full of birds.
I'm not royal in the imprisonment of treasure. Counting - once, again and yet again.

2

I'm the least of characters in this story told in thirds.
My part - betrothal, preparation and unknowing.
Isolation made me eat the strangest food and drink -
honey, locusts, milk, bread, whiskey; replete, yet hunger growing
for companionship, and in its place, new foods. I don't think
I can be blamed for emptiness or my husband's actions.
I'm a ship preparing for the globe.

3

I'm the lowliest in this dictionary of fractions.
Caught in a pan lid? Without the gift of Job
I howl and carry on. The daily rate for Blackbeards' men, not mine. The memory
repulses me. Sudden like the flight of birds, mean as their needle beaks.
I hide below ground, in need of more face. I work in poverty.
In the pantry the grey parrot shrieks and speaks and speaks
my name now long forgotten. Pirate, cook, ship, witch, laundry maid.


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