Our apologies and renewed congratulations to Angela T Carr, the first prize winner of The Laureate’s Prize, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy. In the recent issue of The North Magazine, the formatting of the poem unfortunately went awry. We are very sorry for this error. The corrected version is published below. We hope you enjoy it.
Girl With Child on a Swan’s Wing
Grave 8: Mesolithic Cemetery at Vedbaek, Denmark
I was a girl when my father brought me to him –
my dowry, the tawny-sheened hide of a buck,
twenty bright strings of the teeth of a roe –
I came, the tremble of a small wild thing.
I came, a creature caught – a hunger,
a heart, its string the beat of the forest.
Strangers stripped me, braided shells in my hair,
said my sons would be warriors, a chief’s kin:
And my daughters, I thought, what of them?
Men killed boars to roast and feast, the night air
thick with smoke, their flesh, a drum and burning stars –
they writhed around his head as he took me.
In time, my belly grew a boy, a fawn – he kicked
and quickened, my nearly child – I hunted him
across three starless nights and, blooded, fell.
Women washed my corpse, wreathed me in ivory,
daubed me blue – my wedding fine, a pillow. They wept
as they bore us out through the grasswood huts,
past the hummocks of the elder dead, to the shade
of the trees, laid out where the black earth bared,
and the sun, a bone knife, speared the charging sea.
A tithe of red ochre, blown from a bowl
drifted down, clotting where the birth-tide flowed.
We were put to ground in the lope of the wolf’s moon,
my breathless boy in the cuff of a swan’s wing –
flint blade at his belly – and I, ringed in teeth,
all the beasts of the forest at my throat.