Sharp Knives

Valerie Laws

My mother made me fearless of sharp knives.

At home, no "always cut away from you".
In her kitchen, we welcomed the blade,
Stroking a hand-held carrot's thick shaft
with skin-deep skill. I'd watch the knife
approach, slicing through cellulose like a shark
through shallows, dividing the crisp cells,
the glint of it emerge to stop
at palm or thumb-ball, denting my skin
as if testing a melon for ripeness;
painless, bloodless. I peel and chop
in my hand, knowing the knife I use
like I know my own width through doors,
like my mother knew her favourite knife
for cutting chips.

Some knives are too sharp to feel, too thin
to dent giving skin. My mother does not feel
the blade that slices into her brain, paring
away her memories, cutting off the cells
which hold her self, painless, bloodless.
Like the magician's assistant, she smiles
as the honed edge bites, dividing her from us
and from identity. Her knife-hard hands
can't feel their own idleness; she does not know
that she has forgotten how to use a knife
even for cutting chips.

Valerie Laws Valerie Laws writes:
My Arts Council-funded Quantum Sheep, spray painting poetry onto sheep, received world-wide media attention and led to commissioned anatomical poetry for St Thomas' hospital windows in London, printed in electroluminescence. I am a widely published, prize-winning poet; Moonbathing ('03, Peterloo Poets), For Crying Out Loud (Iron Press, with Kitty Fitzgerald), Star Trek - the Poems (ed/compiled, Iron Press), new collection Quantum Sheep (Peterloo) due Spring 06.

I perform at litfests and venues all over the UK. I've written six stage plays and a short film, all commissioned and produced, including Hadaway, the Making of a Writer, and won a Northern Writer's Award for my crime novel. I'm currently being mentored by BBC Radio 4 to write radio drama.

I'm disabled, lecture part-time on the MA (Creative Writing) at Northumbria University, and have honours degrees in English and in Maths/Theoretical Physics, and an MA. I'm an obsessive swimmer.


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Sharp Knives © 2006 Valerie Laws: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.

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This page last updated 16th January 2006