Joanne Key was the 2nd prize winner in our Charles Causley International Poetry Competition 2016 with her brilliant ‘The Year You Turned Into A Fish’.
Joanne lives in Crewe in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems have appeared in various places online and in print including The Poetry Review, Bare Fiction, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, And Other Poems, York Mix, Clear Poetry, Three Drops From a Cauldron, and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition. She has yet to publish a first collection.
We are delighted to once again share her winning poem in the build up to this year’s centenary celebrations.
The first night, we settled you with a spell
of firelight laced with morphine.
You said you could feel the sea,
warm waves washing everything away.
We judged time passing in the thinning
of limbs and hair, learnt to equalize
the strange swim bladders the surgeon
had to stitch to your skin. A glitch
in the transition. Your metamorphosis
brought the priest with his prayers and nods.
And a pain that would frighten gods away.
After they left, dreams of sea monsters
found us. A terror rising from the deep
to rip houses apart, crush the little
screaming people under its feet.
Fight back, we said. Don’t let go.
A week later, your mouth hung open
on the blunt hooks of our words
and only glossy backdrops of the ocean
soothed you. The living room – a tank
where we watched your legs split
into ribbons and skin give way to scales.
Call it evolution. Call it what you will,
but a million years from now
I’d still be able to recall every detail.
Every dark slit of gill. How a girl can
drown behind eyes bright as moonlit
pools. The fishy stink of you.
And that one frosty morning
when I choked myself awake into a day
purified by ice, crept to the window
to see the world in its white coat,
and a sky full of promise flaking away,
trying to soften the footprints
that ran down the slope in the snow,
where they came in the night,
and carried you, still sleeping,
out to the stream, leaving us nothing
but the constant drip of walls,
a rushing sensation under our feet.