A.C. Clarke’s “Woman Made of Glass” won the 2011 Grey Hen Poetry Competition for women over 60. This contest offers a top prize of 100 pounds and is now accepting submissions through April 30.
I came across this exquisite poem while updating our Winning Writers contest database listings. The author and contest sponsor have kindly given me permission to reprint it here, since it’s no longer available on their website.
Woman Made of Glass
She can’t remember a time
before she knew to be careful.
No-one told her. She knew.
Her mother used to squeeze her hand so tight
she felt it crack. She’s never risked touch since,
spent childhood dodging
the heavy arms of aunts,
washing the smears
of fishmouth kisses from her skin.
She saw a glass frog once, its guts
clustered in its belly like pale grapes,
its small heart pittering:
took to covering herself –
high collars, sleeves to wrists,
thick tights. Like an old maid
said her mother. No boyfriends yet?
the aunts would dig. Afraid of heat
she’d hurry past lovers fused
mouth to mouth in a doorway,
likes cool places still,
country churches on weekday afternoons,
the saints in the windows filtering light
through sightless eyes.
Old glass is her favourite: its pieced
stories jewel-bright, simple, remote
as fairy-tale. Does she notice
how sometimes it bulges towards the base
thick and opaque, as if all these years
it’s been sneaking out of the leaden cames
slipped down, let itself go?