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CHERYL PEARSON

 

 

                                                                                             

cheryl pearson photoCheryl Pearson is the author of Oysterlight (Pindrop Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, The High Window, Under The Radar, Poetry NorthWest, Compass, Frontier, and The Interpreter’s House. Her poems have won the High Sheriff's Cheshire Prize for Literature, the Torbay Open Poetry Competiton and the Bedford International Writing Competiton, and her short story, "The Fishwife", was commended in the Costa Short Story Awards. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England.

 

 

L’Inconnue de la Seine

 

In the late 1880’s, the body of a young woman was pulled from the Seine. The pathologist at the Paris Morgue was so taken by her smiling expression and her beauty that he made a wax plaster death mask of her face. In the 1960’s, the cast was used for the first resuscitation mannequin, and consequently employed around the world in first aid training. The young woman remains unidentified, but her face has been called “the most kissed face of all time.”

 

Mild as a saint when they dredged her,

milk-white and streaming water.

 

High-born, surely, with those bones.

One of them swears he danced with her

 

under gold leaf at the Opera Garnier.

I couldn’t forget that smile if I tried.

 

They cast her face in wax and plaster.

Beauty must be preserved. Why else

 

fill cabinets with butterflies? They do not cast

her slim hands, redundant thighs, or breasts.

 

Later they’ll give her a common trunk,

lend hospitals and clinics her likeness.

 

How to coax a heartbeat back. Not with magic,

but practice. How to rub the lips with alcohol

 

then blow. Her name is forgotten. Even so,

she smiles under each pummel, each kiss.

 

 

©2018 Cheryl Pearson

 

 

Author Links

 

Pearson's collection Oysterlight (Pindrop Press)

"Flamingo" published in Frontier Poetry

"Mam Tor" prizewinner in the Bare Fiction Prize for Poetry 2015

 

 

 

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