Toe Eater

November 1st 2016, Sheffield: A man walked into Wilkinson’s, cut off his big toe with bolt cutters, and ate it.

What walks on four feet in the morning,
two at midday, three at night?
In Chinese medicine
our feet reflect us.
Miniaturised,
the big toe is the head;

It was his slap-step
stabilising force
for running down the road,
to stand tiptoe to reach top shelves,
propulsion for peering out the window
one November night, the sky on fire.

His headaches, he thought, might go.
Enough ruminating thoughts, spiralling.
After weeks of pale margarine and bread,
his hunger, lust, his appetence
now craved a meaty morsel,
some company.

As a child he wore his father’s shoes on his hands.
Crawling, gambolling
and small, feeling
such warm feet his father had, a strong grasp
enfolding vice-like, clasped round him.
The clack of footsteps a diminishing echo.

The escalator clicked round infinity,
metal disappearing underground
while remembering his mother’s kiss
on each one, soft
bath-clean and wriggling,
the bolt cutter’s teeth came down.

In that blood rush he sees
Ouroborus devouring its tail, Achilles’ heel collapsing,
Cronus feasting, this little piggy…
A warm red carpet unfolds beneath him as he smiles
at the queue, and their mouths hang open for what feels like eternity
as they watch his jaws close.

Claire Basarich

Women of Steel

We are sisters who clank through the streets
on rustless feet and chain linked arms
the deep pull of ore in our loins –
calls of ancestors deep in the rocks of yolk and plum and rust.
I polish her toes til they shine –
she deserves this at least and I know that she’d polish mine.
.
We are women of steel
women who do what we feel
women who do what we can
women who cry, women who rise
women at the heart of this town.
.
My nipples leak steel milk
and she keeps holding me up.
.
We are women who labour and birth
women who work, women who juggle
dark peaks and light, women who do what we can
when Cleethorpes’s too dear there’s the beach in town
the patch of sand that scratches our palms
sisters of steel squatting down.
.
I wipe orange streams from her cheeks
and keep holding her up.
.
We are women of steel
of hijabs and braids, of curly and straight
of blond hair and white
women who run, women who ride
women who lathe and grind
without gloves, we are women of three kids and twins on the way
and just a bit of peace

just a bit of peace please
.
She wipes crystal dust from my nails
and keeps holding me up.
.
We are women of hills
of limestone and grit
of ups and downs
of you can do it duck
we’ll get through it
we are women who nobody knows
guilt plated girls with lacquered legs
women of glad rags
of red crags, of sneaking bags back
from the foodbank
we are women of steel
.
I grip her shoulder
and keep holding her up.

.
women who do what we feel
women who do what we can
women who cry, women who rise
women at the heart of this town.

Rachel Bower
Originally commissioned by BBC Radio Sheffield for National Poetry Day.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis stayed,
listening to the draught
moan beneath her bedroom door,
wondering what became
of the girl who didn’t
stay,
and whether each decision made
gives birth to another self
who decides the other way.

She’s the girl who stayed,
niggled and riddled with doubt,
wondering what became
and listening to the draught.
A voice from the Azores
singing of campfires
and the faces of strangers
crackling with laughter.

What sights has she seen?
What lovers known?
Here she plays the housewife
and there she plays the horn:
a magic air 
entrancing even the moon
to turn and bathe her restless feet.

But Amaryllis stayed,
listening to the draught
moan beneath her bedroom door,
wondering what became
of the girl who didn’t
stay,
and whether each decision made
gives birth to another self
who decides the other way.

Mark Gwynne Jones