Featured Poet #4: Hayley Shields
Hey guys - you may have noticed that there was no Featured Poet last week… I was busy busy busy and events overtook me! ONS was generally rather dull last week, but fear not, I am back with renewed vigour, and a brand new gorgeous Featured Poet for you all to check out! Read on…
Hayley Shields was born in 1986 in the Northeast of England, but currently lives, works and writes in Edinburgh. She works part-time as a ghostly tour-guide in Edinburgh’s haunted catacombs, but also recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA in English Literature, and is now working towards an MSc in Creative Writing from the same institution. Hayley is a close friend, but I promise I am not biased when I say that she is also a brilliant poet - her work is vivid, unflinching and undoubtedly female! Hayley is one of the poetry editors at Read This Magazine and her work has now appeared twice within its hallowed pages, but she’s beginning to spread her wings and find fame elsewhere, too. During the Edinburgh Festival she was invited to read at the Blackwells Best of Scottish Writing event, and she has also recently read at the presitious members-only Scottish Arts Club. Hayley is currently working on a series of poems inspired by fairytales and folklore, entitled Cautionary Tales. The poem below is a recent addition to that series — enjoy!
…From “Cautionary Tales”
The Nameless Mermaid’s Revenge:
A choose-your-own-adventure poem.
For you I sacrificed. I endured.
I saved you from the cold snatches of the sea.
For you the sea-witch sliced me to silence.
In the storm the ship creaked and it cracked,
but I saved you. In the sea I lurk. Unseen
I watch you. For you I sacrificed. I endured.
I made my way to a house of bones. Built of human bones.
Her croaking voice simmered, her bosom bled black,
for you the sea-witch sliced me to silence.
I came to you, though every step prickled with pain.
I danced for you, though the floor was paved with shards of glass.
For you I sacrificed. I endured.
You married another.
After all I had sacrificed, all I had endured.
Screaming was futile – the sea witch had sliced me to silence. For you.
With no tongue to tell my tale
it is left to another.
I gave my tongue for one male
and it is held by another.
Speechless, he paints me selfless.
Forced to watch complacently as my Prince
weds and fucks another.
Then, helpless, would you believe,
I kiss their sticky foreheads,
bless their damp marriage bed,
and hurl myself to the sea.
Dashed to foam.
This was not my ending.
Forgive my bitterness, Hans,
But this is not the ending
If either he or me must die
Before the sun rises
It won’t be me.
I take the knife of the sea-witch.
I take my sisters’ sacrifice.
I drive it through his flesh.
I wake her with the warmth of his lost blood.
I stand over him with a cruel silent laugh.
I let his last sight be the rotting stump of my tongue.
I hurl her to the foam instead of me.
I wait until he leaves me for the last time.
I cast the knife back to the sea:
The blood bubbles and fades.
I leave the scent of flowers behind,
leave the stale half-promises
of clichéd souls and immortality
down. To the deepest place of all.
“with a last glance at the Prince from eyes half-dimmed in death she hurled herself from the ship into the sea…”