Poetry — Highly Commended, Jenny Blackford
Jenny Blackford writes poems and stories for people of all ages. Her poems have appeared in Going Down Swinging, Westerly, The Pedestal Magazine and more. Pitt Street Poetry published an illustrated pamphlet of her cat poems, The Duties of a Cat, in 2013, and her first full-length book of poetry, The Loyalty of Chickens, in 2017. Her new book (2019) is a spooky adventure story for kids, The Girl in the Mirror (Eagle Books).
A blur dopplering away
After the Santiago snatching
my man was angrier than I was.
We were overtired from night flights
into almost our last day in South America,
forgot the sound local advice
we hadn’t needed
through a gloriously uneventful trip:
no jewellery on the street.
It was Chile, not Peru. No folkloric-
embroidered women chattered on the footpath,
garlanded llama babies swathed in shawls
calm in their arms, ready for happy snaps.
Despite the no-sleep night, the Castello
tempted me through our wide window:
a Spanish hill-fort looped with gardens
looming across the road, so close.
Local archaeology. Who could resist?
On the crowded zebra crossing I lagged
behind my husband, my own human icebreaker. An arm
from the other direction – stained oval nails
filed to sharp almonds – thrust
between oncomers’ shoulders, jabbed my chin,
scraped my sternum. Pain. Weird pressure
on my neck. Why would a stranger attack me
I shouted something furious, unladylike. He ran,
a blur dopplering away through so many locals
still on the crossing, innocent camouflage. My hand to
my scraped chest. The thin gold chain
snapped, gone, the blue-green flower pendant
my sister gave me
gone with it.
My outrage was nothing to my man’s.
He turned when I shouted, half a second
too late to sight the fleeing thief. How dare
the miscreant harm me and escape
when his love was scathed, scratched
and shaky. The thief so fast, professional,
his face unseen, though I can still see
that sharp-clawed hand reaching through shoulders,
feel the scratches.
Our walk to the Castello ruined
we retreated to our hotel refuge
licked our metaphorical wounds
washed my fleshly ones with soap and water.
Local Malbec, golden fried potatoes (local treasure
more precious than the tonnes of metals
European conquerors stole), kindness.
No point troubling the locals
with the sour fruits of my slip-up.
Another sip or two of red
and we could smile again.
Only a calm baby llama
soft-swaddled in a shawl
could have helped more.