washed up

Hel Robin Gurney
Content Warnings
"What the old witch didn't tell you,..."
Dec 28, 2020 9:50 PM

What the old witch didn't tell you,

with all her sophistries and potions—

it's not just as simple as adding legs.

She unravelled you, down to your bare thread,

and now you are something new.

Broken down. Rewritten.

No more scars. No more memories

lingering in the space between scales and bone.

You are soft as a newborn.

Take your first stumbling steps

and be glad. The ground has claimed you.

The flint beneath your feet is kindness—

the thistles, respect.

You will learn breezes, birdsong,

the heat of the sun. You will learn rivers,

see how water slows and thickens.

Everything reminds you of the sea.

Salt winds lick you. Gulls

bring a flash of memory

and then wheel on.

You persevere.

Move inland.

The blackthorn hedges

flower into foam.

Delirious, you recall your tail.

They find you—

unconscious, sopping wet— 

in a stagnant cattle-trough.

You wake up wound in cotton

like wind-lashed sails: you rip and twist.

A rumble of boots; a surrounded bed.

Your clicks and screeching go unanswered.

Their alien voices coo and sigh

as you stare, sobbing, at your strange toes

and slick your cheeks with salt.

HEL ROBIN GURNEY is a poet, performer, writer, and escaped academic. They are fascinated with myth, memory, and monstrosity—whether voicing Sycorax's last curse to Prospero, eulogising Jacobean cross-dresser Moll Cutpurse, or collaging a bilingual soundscape from the memories of a 10th-century book. The poem "Washed Up", published in this issue of Monstering, was the starting point for Gurney's poetry and storytelling project "Red Hoods and Glass Slippers", chapter one of which appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 as spoken word solo show "The Sleeping Princess". Other recent credits include the audiovisual collaboration "Wild Winter" (2017, with Ash Welch) and the libretto for experimental opera "The Lion-Faced Man" (Tête à Tête Festival 2015, with composer CN Lester). Hel Robin can be found at helgurney.wordpress.com, or wandering around the south of England.