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Strike Anywhere by Eleanor Walsh

Strike Anywhere is the Poetry category Winner in the 2020 Matchgirls Creative Arts Competition run in partnership with Pen to Print

At the bench again – match fingers working from memory –

you’re re-living last night’s ostrich feathers

the colour of sky that hangs over the factory’s high ceiling – 

glue and dust growing now like an extra skin –

pretty – weren’t you? In the music hall, everyone said so.


The double-ended lucifers in your fist

require only friction – not along the red edge

of the box but anything at all and you think

of this when the other girl has sixpence swiped

for a tray that topples from her hands.


Only friction – a bright fissure through the air

that sounds like breaking before the flame finds its way

       –      and you made it yourself, didn’t you?


Admit it – you’re becoming ostrich egg –

bulge under the jaw and tooth-cracking sound –

pushing scared fingers into your throat where it swells,

you’re heavy enough to drown /

growing new bones / you are incubating – pipping –


breaking up when you bite down

               but last night alone

you sang the words at the ceiling

after the show and              thought of the ostrich feathers

that moved on the dance floor as if they could take flight –

the blue of the great outdoors –


with matches breaking in your wet fist before raining down

you hear the same old music play now as you push through –

                through this cruel eggshell –

                a flame’s fissure through the air that sounds like breaking


they’re scavenging pennies from you but you’re

                suddenly starving and sobered up

                balled up and matchbox-small

                                  like a fist               for the fight


Eleanor is a PhD graduate from the University of Plymouth. She now lives in Cornwall where she works as an English tutor and creative editor. Her novellas 'Birds with Horse Hearts', set in Nepal, and 'Stormbred', set in Cornwall, are available from Ad Hoc Fiction.

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