Sue Finch's first published poem appeared in A New Manchester Alphabet in 2015 while she was studying with Manchester Metropolitan University for her Masters. Her work has since appeared in a number of magazines including The Interpreter’s House, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Dear Reader, One Hand Clapping and IceFloe Press. Sue's debut collection, Magnifying Glass, was published in 2020. She lives with her wife in North Wales.
After Liz Berry
The night she bent my elbows
to fit the candy floss cardigan
for the twenty-third time, my limbs turned to wings.
She wished me to be a pink girl.
My neck grew and grew,
black eyes shrunk in the pink like submerged pea shingle.
Light in my fan of feathers,
I was lifted like a balloon puffed with helium.
Body and wings held stately,
magically anchored by one leg,
miniature rough patellas marked my hinges.
When the scent entered half-moon holes in my new beak
I could have salivated at the raw rip of scaled flesh
but my juices would not run – I was gizzard now.
I couldn’t bear the confinement of the flock, but flight
had me fearful.
Passing through flamingo phase I fattened, darkened.
A birch broom in a fit,
I shook my thick cheeks side to side
became a dodo
with a waddle in my walk that slowed.
She sent my father then. He came alone
with gun and incongruent grin
and shot me dead.
Skewered me above his heaped fire under moonlight,
turned me slowly round and round.
When he turned for the sauce
charcoaled feathers, beak tinged with soot,
burning in the blaze.
I laughed as I rose
higher and higher;
a golden bird from the fire.
I Can't Send You
Back, Can I?
I can’t send you back, can I?
What if I wanted to go?
To have her voice filtered through skin and fat.
that curious consoling babble.
What if I wanted to be enclosed again?
To be unseen,
What if I wanted to keep her expectant?
To have us halted in anticipation.
Last time I led with my head;
tunnelling though grip after grip
of concentric circles.
A hot salted mucus sealed my squashed nose
denying me her scent.
Air on my hairless head shocked me
as my face squashed tighter
for my slow unscrewing.
The throb of heartbeats
confused me with her;
fast and faster
in my ears, my chest, my head.
Longing to cry,
my lungs had me impatient.
A metallic tang hung in shivers of cold
as at last my body slung out behind.
I was landed.
I would be her contortionist daughter –
her womb my lockable box.
I would have to go backwards,
lead with my feet, point my toes.
would twist my legs into a rope
their powerful vacuum cramping, pulling,
spiralling me upwards
until the smooth, curled width of my hips
pushes her pelvis, demanding to come in.
My left shoulder would force her wide
just before that warmth grabs my neck.
Her stretch for the sharp shock of my head
would finally close my eyes.
It was a surprise
so I kept my eyes closed
all the way to the garden.
My empty stomach
was a theatre of kaleidoscoping gems.
She stopped me walking,
invited me to open my eyes.
Slowly I began to see.
An enormous glass jar
had been delivered to our lawn.
Above it, swinging from a crane
was a lid.
Do you like it? she asked.
It’s huge, I managed.
I am going to exhibit you,
she said excitedly. You like things in jars.
That was the truth.
A collection of smurfs,
smartie lids, miniature carved owls,
that figure of Dick Tracy.
I liked looking at them,
it made dusting easier,
they could be handed
to someone with ease, for scrutiny.
I wasn’t sure this was right for me.
I ordered an extra large one, she was saying.
She seemed to be making a speech,
a declaration of love.
I was supposed to be grateful now,
Two men were smiling at me
asking her if I was ready.
then I was on a platform
being lowered in.
I smiled like a good exhibit should
as the lid was lowered on.
It fitted firmly.
Did she know I would make condensation
spoil the whole effect?
Flamingo: won second prize in the Cheltenham Poetry Festival
I Can’t Send You Back Can I?: Interpreter’s House (Issue 69)