Susan UttingSusan Utting 


Self-Portrait as a Ticked Box

I would paint myself green for the luck of the Irish, purple
my mouth for a Bow bell's chime, one arm banded black
for the death of a king, dress in red for the wake of my sister.

For the stones on a South coast beach I'd wear rubber shoes,
for my sea-worthy father a hat made of canvas, cut from a jib.
I'd be sitting up straight, for uncle Joe's Friday night dinners.

At my back I'd sketch bulbfields for Freda and Eddie,
their glasshouses still on the Great Ouse's banks, no floods
but a windmill with still sturdy sails for my grandfathers.

For my foremothers I would put fat Russian dolls, full of dear
little girls, on collapsible tables, with linen and crochet hooks,
cooking pots, stained with pearl-barley, and chicken-bone soup.

I'd be dancing a jig, a mazurka, an old-fashioned waltz, would spin
on blocked toes, paint my feet bloody. I'd be carried away on a longboat,
a horse-drawn cart, hay wain, or curled in a home-crafted coracle.

I would sign myself small, with a borrowed name, in fine rain
from the North, touched with good fortune's red from the far,
Far East, shot with silk, spun out in the West. But here, I must

write myself clear, flat as a Midlands vowel, glottal-stopped, tick
as I'm asked, I must paint myself funeral, statistical, invisible, other.


Selected by Simon Armitage for 2nd Prize
in the 2015 McLellan Poetry Competition.


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