The Sword Swallower

First it’s cutlery, missing
from the kitchen table.
Steak knives clinking
under your school jumper –
holes in the sleeves cut
by your elbows, threads you unravel
in Geography class.

On the sofa, silence clots
between your parents,
and the TV floods its blue,
whilst in your room you test
metal against your chin, press
lips with Made in Sheffield steel,
tip your head back, fight the gag reflex.

Palette knife, paper knife, pocket knife.
Scalpel, switchblade, stiletto.
The taste of them on your tongue.

And now you are whetted –
the bayonet. You hold it
to the light, reflecting the flat
blades of your cheekbones, the hilt
of your hip. You wish
you could remain honed,
but soon you’ll be as wedged
and blunted as your mother.
You will bleed.


Wendy Ann Greenhalgh

The Sword Swallower by Wendy Ann Greenhalgh was first published in Issue 4 of Bare Fiction Magazine (November 2014).

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