Friday, 31 August 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "The First Cut" by Helen Pizzey



The First Cut



In the womb we sucked each other’s thumb. As toddlers we curled together like kittens and rubbed each other’s earlobes. Thirteen years later, she sits in front of me dressed in a hospital gown. Her body is still that of a child, and her hair, which has never been cut, is braided into one long plait and draped over her shoulder. Her emaciated arms are discoloured by lesions. “You brought the scissors?” She extends her palm with a cold solemnity. I hand over the scissors and hold taut the tail of her plait while she cuts, cuts, cuts thickly at its base, close beside her neck. I am stunned by its weight when it falls into my lap. There it lies, measuring the distance that has always been between us.


Helen Pizzey


"The First Cut" most recently appeared in Orange Coast Review. Pizzey is Assistant Editor at PURBECK! magazine and appears in the anthology, This Line Is Not for Turning: Contemporary British Prose Poetry (ed. Jane Monson, Cinnamon, 2011), among other journals and anthologies in the UK and US. She received her MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University in 2005. 

5 comments:

Rachel Perkins said...

In this piece, it’s the way that Helen Pizzey captures a profound moment that predominantly makes The First Cut a prose poem. The whole piece concentrates on the one idea: a twin cutting the other twin’s hair, underlined by the fact that the second twin is ill in hospital. Another characteristic of prose poetry that’s reflected in The First Cut is the use of an ominous last line that concentrates on an important idea. In this case, the twins have always been by each other’s side. This line doesn’t only tell a fact, but also draws attention to the possibility that they may continue to lose their closeness (through illness or death).

Sarah Welch said...

This piece works very well as a a prose poem due to its intrinsically poetic topic: the separation, both physically and emotionally, of twins. The opening image of twins sucking ‘each other’s thumb’ is strong and memorable. This striking imagery is one recurring characteristic of successful prose poems. Additionally, like most effective prose poems this piece focuses solely on one idea. Though this piece does integrate some historical context to its narrative, it does not distract from its focus. All the information that Pizzey has provided aids and is crucial to the single poignant meaning of this piece.

Kentland Girl said...

The First Cut by Helen Pizzey works well as a prose poem because of the intense relationship portrayed between twins. It shows a single moment shared and yet we are given a good impression of their life together. We are led to believe that they have been drifting apart since a young age, they started off by sucking ‘each other’s thumb’ and then ‘rubbed each other’s earlobes’, and, yet despite one of them being ill, they may now have the chance to be close once more. In the last line it describes the plait of hair ‘measuring the distance that has always been between us’ giving us the idea that now it’s been cut away there is nothing holding them apart. This could also be interpreted in that the one speaking is a boy and now that the girl has less hair they are more alike. The ambiguity of it is another characteristic of a prose poem.

Fiona Jackson said...

The First Cut by Helen Pizzey works well as a prose poem because of the intense relationship portrayed between twins. It shows a single moment shared and yet we are given a good impression of their life together. We are led to believe that they have been drifting apart since a young age, they started off by sucking ‘each other’s thumb’ and then ‘rubbed each other’s earlobes’, and, yet despite one of them being ill, they may now have the chance to be close once more. In the last line it describes the plait of hair ‘measuring the distance that has always been between us’ giving us the idea that now it’s been cut away there is nothing holding them apart. This could also be interpreted in that the one speaking is a boy and now that the girl has less hair they are more alike. The ambiguity of it is another characteristic of a prose poem.

Anonymous said...

We are taken through time from moment to moment, like lppking at old photographs until a scene with the action of the twin cutting her hair off. This piece works as a prose poem because of the intense meaning inherent in the smallest of actions. The girl cutting her hair off is a point where she can take back some control, some power from a seemingly dire situation that has been deigned for her. The plait of hair is connected to time, it's growth has been counting down to something, this sense of time running out has imbued the hair with a heavy weight as it's been a burden on the girl. The foreknowledge of time running out has been the distance that has always existed between the twins. All this meaning portrayed in so few words and simple imagery is what makes this piece work as it does. There can be different levels of engagement or interpretation, something that sits comfortably here.