My father sold me for a bag of sugar
and a ball of wool. A bad-luck child,
my eyes were broken mirrors, a smile
like a line of spilled salt. My father crossed himself,
and left. Not once did he turn to look back.
At first, I spoke only to tell them how
I dreamt of one long, peaceful sleep,
of never again being woken by a kiss.
They put me to work in the factory kitchen
making porridge for the spinning women.
It was there I began to shrink and every day,
a little more of me was stirred into the pot
until I was too weak to hold the spoon.
They slotted me in among the rows of spinsters,
peddling their threads like glorious silkworms.
The women taught me the Great Wheel and I told them
how to turn a needle into a wolf’s tooth, lace wounds
with gold thread, how I could shrug off my own skin
at the end of every day like a cape. Hypnotised
by the frenzy of my hands, by the pull and split,
the feed, the way my fingers danced, they never once
flinched from my stories, all the time, keeping one eye
on my work. On and on with the spin until I unravelled
myself into a hundred women all telling tales,
never stopping for breath or food or rest even as the yarn
tightened its knots, cutting in until every single finger bled
and dyed the last of their white wool –
Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition and has previously been shortlisted for Poetry for Performance, The Bridport Prize, Mslexia Poetry Competition and The Plough Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared both online and in print. Completely in love with poetry, she writes every day and her work is often inspired by elements of fairytale and folklore.