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2018 winner, Natalie D-Napoleon

We are pleased to announce Natalie D-Napoleon as the 2018 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize winner with her poem 'First Blood: A Sestina'. Curious about the story behind this poem? Watch a recital and interview with Natalie, where she talks about the use of a sestina, other poets that inspire her and much more. 

First Blood: A Sestina

There was a time when the girl
never thought about the colour blue, or blood,
could be amused by the flicking of a lit match,
the delicate shiver of a spider orchid;
summer holidays stretched out, days dropping time
like a missed knitting stitch.

But her body was not hers, a stitch
of animal, a pinch of dirt, a girl
is made of words plus liquid minus time
and what she does not have; blood,
defines her. Like an orchid
about to bloom she unfurls, unlit match

between her teeth, nobody to match
her unkissed lips, until the stitch
is pulled and the thread of the cloth orchid
undoes, just enough to reveal the gone girl.
Nobody told her there would be so much blood!
Her mother had tried to mend the old time

ways, when girls were never told in time
about periods, as if knowledge alone could match
an image of her baba scrubbing the blood
out of torn rags, her hair greasy, a stitch
unwashed once every month. Cold water, girls
know, washes out blood, and orchids

should be kept indoors and warm, orchids
are to be protected from a cold breeze. In time
the blue liquid in the TV ads for girl-
products made sense, red stains to mismatch
the pastel spots on her skirt enough to stitch
shame to her chest. Blood

is not to be seen - except the blood
of war or violence. Blood ‘n Bone drinks the orchid,
the fetor forcing the girl to sprint until a stitch
bites her side and the breath of time
stabs; finding a way to strike the match
of bloom and decay in the body of a girl.

She came to see a stitch in time
could not repair the stain of first blood, spider orchids 
are too delicate to touch, and nothing can hold a match to a bleeding girl.