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Poetry / Victoria Gatehouse

'The Selkie Wife’ &
‘Flamenco with the Ferryman’

Issue 2. June 21, 2021

Yesterday she found her skin
rolled up in a carpet in the attic
and imagined his young hands
careful not to tear as he laid it out
half a lifetime ago, convincing
himself it was for the best, so when
her cracks began to show, he insisted
it was eczema, fingers tender
as he worked in the grease,
layer upon layer, her skin weeping
underneath, her eyes pebble-dry
from searching. And when he held
back her head for the saline drops
she let him swim into her sights, 
never knowing if it was him or the children
that kept her from looking all this time
only to stumble on it now -
oily, feral, holding the breath of the sea.
Now he’s floundering in shallows,
offering up a trip to the pool
when she’s burning for salt-water’s kiss,
skin scrubbed up, head gone tidal
with the push and pull of it. 


This is the one she can’t sit out.

He’s standing there, black-suited,
the man with the nails in his soles
and she knows the time has come
to cross the floor, all proud swish
in her polka-dot skirts.
Already one step ahead,
he begins to clap out the compás -
an instruction for muscle and blood
in the quick then the slow
then the quick. Spine curved back,
black lacework fan full-flicked,
she’s thinking he moves pretty slick
for an old, skinny bloke, 
all those sassy hip flicks and pitos,
clacking his knuckles like castanets -
they’re turning fast, faster,
in each passing, the cold river
of his breath taken in as her own -
here she comes again, all nerve
and burn, stamping out the performance
of her life and this is how it ends -
a storm of applause,
silver and roses thrown,
the bone-gleam of his grin
as he stoops to pick up the coins. 

I am a Yorkshire-based poet with an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. My poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies including The North, The Rialto, Mslexia, Magma and She is Fierce in addition to being broadcast on BBC radio. Competition wins include Ikley, Otley, PENfro and the Poetry News Members’ Competitions. My first pamphlet was published by Valley Press and my second The Mechanics Of Love is published by smith|doorstop and was a Laureate’s Choice for 2019.

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