Knife

by Claire Askew


Moniack Mhor, Inverness-shire

You’re a half-shut knife, the woman
in the neat scarf says.  I’m looking
at the miniature bolts that hold
her natty glasses in the shape
of her face.  She’s saying it
as an example — you’re a half-
shut knife, that’s whit ma
Banff granny used tae say —
but she’s right.

I’m a half-shut knife: not quite
awake, moving in an unscrewed slope
through these rooms, their squares
of blue light.  I’m a blunt
edge, folded in the lonely oilcloth
of my bed, not closed but also
never open — zoneless, gutless,
cutting no mustard, splitting no flesh —
in control of essentially nothing.

I’m looking at those
two silver crossheads catching
the light: this woman’s eyes
green earths towed
by their own tiny moons.
She’s laughing at me, this wifey —
wise old dove crooning
in Gaelic, appraising me in ways
she knows I understand.  Aye.

I’m half-shut knife, alright.
I’ve dropped from the pocket
of my old life — my white bone
handle, scratched lines
thumbed dim on my slight blade
right up to the kick — my loss
mourned by no one.
Where is the man whose hand
I could be folded in?

But my new friend is quiet,
her eyes like marbles
in a riveted jar.  Sure, I say,
a half-shut knife.  Closure
is all I’m looking for.

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CLAIRE ASKEW

Claire’s debut poetry collection, This changes things, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. The collection was shortlisted for an Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, the Saltire First Book Award, the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre Prize and the Michael Murphy Memorial Award. Claire is also a novelist, and her debut novel All The Hidden Truths won the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and was published by Hodder & Stoughton in August 2018.  Claire is currently the Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, and you can follow her online @onenightstanzas.

Photo Credit: Dominic Stevenson

Read more from Claire:

Knifethorn fieldAll the Hidden TruthsIn Conversation with Poet and Novelist Claire Askew