Hedgehog Girl

by Vicki Feaver

I was born bristling
with prickles. My mother
shaved me with a razor.

When my prickles grew back:
longer, thicker, sharper,
she pulled them out with tweezers.

When they grew again:
a pelt of spiky armour,
she chased after me with pliers.

I ran away and hid in the woods.
Sniffed out by a hunter’s
snarling dogs

I rolled into a ball.
I forgot I was girl
and a forester arrived

to fell a tall pine.
I watched in a swoon
as he swung his axe

driving the blade
deeper and deeper
into the bright wood.

The tree shrieked, swayed
and fell with a crash.
He turned, pushed

a lock of glossy black hair
from his eyes and stared
through me as if I was air.

I ran to the pool’s mirror:
saw a girl as spiky
as gorse on the moor.

I built a fire of dry branches.
Rolling first in claggy clay
(the gypsies’ method

of removing spines
from a hedgehog),
ran through the flames.

Three times I ran through fire
to become the woman
of a man’s desire.

Three times to charm
and be ruled by a man,
I tried and failed

to tame my fierce nature.
And now, I live alone:
my spines, regrown,

turned inwards:
a spiky thicket
around my heart.