THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2009

  WENDY KLEIN
I BORROW AUNT RUBY'S JANE EYRE
 

Its olive greenness is already haunted, the spine
stiff with importance, lettered in gold

with wood engravings. I am barely twelve
when I open it, and the crocodile queue of girls

shuffles towards me off the cover, their starved faces
cut-out hearts and triangles, chins sharp enough

to slice bread. Their centre-partings are razor-ruled
in white, stretch from taut scalps. I gaze for hours

into the eyes of the only queue-waif who's dared
to look up, my sister in literature, sent away

after her mother's early death, to the bleakness
of boarding school, by an aunt who despises her.

I gorge on the gothic horror, the fodder of nightmares
that advances, gargoyle-faced as I turn each page:

the downcast eyes, the meagre capes, the cobblestone-
chill that seeps into boots unmended or too thin.

Flushed with deprivation or consumption, I crave
the cool hands of a friend, of a mother. When I return

the book to Aunt Ruby, handled with care, it is bone-clean,
unblemished; no blood, no sputum, no love.


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