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This poem is taken from PN Review 62, Volume 14 Number 6, July - August 1988.

Poems Alison Brackenbury


The great clock strikes: once only! Never again
will small feet go scuttling down the stairs,
the hem unravelling, softer than the flick
of the grey rat's tail. Hair tumbles down
unpowdered, dull. She is as far from home
as from a deck the land-lights slide away.
'As she ran back' - A calm voice says, 'You know:
she should have taken the prince with her.'

                                         The dress
is neither sack nor silk. It is the blue
of stormy summer, in the almost dark.
The hedgehog snuffles peacefully. He sees
no ribboned mice, no bare feet, nor the slime
of the rotted pumpkin; in his night
the prince stays, but the clocks strike all the time.

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