MAG Poetry Competition 2011 – 3rd Prize Winner

The Hook

by Suzanne Schenk

She crouches on the bathroom counter
clutching her knees, tugging
her stained nightie down
again and again.
 
Her feet, naked
in the chipped porcelain sink
cold water splashing over them
until they are numb.
 
The bathroom door, locked now
Her father, drunk and passed out now.
She sits and watches the cold water breaking on
the bones of her thin, white feet.
 
And she never told anyone
what happened in that park
not her teachers
not her friends
not her mother.
 
She swallowed the memory
the way a fish having snapped the line,
tries to shake the hook free but swallows it instead
and where the barb catches in the body
a second skin grows around the wound.
 
Years later, chain smoking in bed, she tells him.
Her voice is flat. She is describing a scene from a movie,
a scene from someone else's life, only the ashtray
on her chest, rises and falls rapidly
a small dirty life boat.
 
Later she sleeps
her thin body curves like a trigger
icy feet touch his skin
a hook grows
in his heart.

Added: 21.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem

04.05.2011

A poem that leaves an all too sad image in the mind. Tautly written and carefully understated - the impact is greater for this.

04.05.2011

Real, gripping, painful. I can feel this, see it, be moved by it!

14.05.2011

My number 2. I love " a small dirty life boat" excellent. I would have added "and " to "a hook grows in his heart"

17.05.2011

So hard to cover this kind of material. I like the end, but the wording of the earlier description isn't original enough

20.05.2011

What a beautiful concept. The first few stanzas didn't grab me, but the metaphor of the hook and it's Infectious nature was perfect.

08.06.2011

This is the winner for me. The fifth stanza with the image of the fish swallowing a hook is just so powerful.

08.06.2011

Powerful and tragic. I really enjoyed reading this poem. Quite haunting in its ending too.

08.06.2011

A strong poem about an important subject. Painful but a true image I thought

08.06.2011

Really interesting take on dark subject with good gritty details (good title). Like repetition of "now" in 3rd. Open to interpretation.

08.06.2011

Extremely difficult subject to tackle. Sensitively crafted. No sickly sentiments here. No easy answers. Hard-hitting and yet tender.

08.06.2011

Well written with powerful ending words that tug at the heart.

09.06.2011

simple but effective imagery, I really liked this one.

09.06.2011

Powerful, intense and succinct. The image of the second skin was strong as was the connection between memories and wounding.

09.06.2011

Strong image of the hook embedded deep inside which eventually is passed to her partner. Great poem.

09.06.2011

A bit didactic in places, but excellent use of description in stanzas 5 and 7 especially.

09.06.2011

Some brilliant images - lifeboat & trigger esp. very powerful first two lines. Quite raw.

10.06.2011

Some questionable punctuation was a shame, as the poem itself was very striking and the final scene especially is jarring for the reader.

11.06.2011

Very painful. Central image as a fish hook is unusual, powerful & visceral. Liked the ashtray as a life boat and body curved like a trigger.

11.06.2011

This is easily my number one. a most excellent ending

11.06.2011

painful images, especially the last verse

13.06.2011

I really liked the similie of the fish swallowing the hook from the broken line, it worked really well.

13.06.2011

conveys the deadness really well - the hook being passed on is an excellent image.

14.06.2011

Powerful imagery worked well(the hook, the life boat.) I was a bit thrown by 'the bathroom counter' as I couldn't picture it.

14.06.2011

A very precise and clever analogy. And I love the line about the ashtray/dirty little boat.

17.06.2011

i liked the title, and the vivid picture you painted, very good.

18.06.2011

reminiscent of raymond carver. a stronger poem for the not knowing what really happened.

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