had a slim waist (in the very beginning),
soft hair
a gorgeous smile (pearly arcs, those teeth. Shining church doors).
Marcia had smiling eyes
loose hips
could dance as well as anyone on television
lived with her grandparents in Kingston, Jamaica,
and she was oh so kind,
had some art about her.
When told to go into the woods to choose a branch with
which her grandfather would beat her little brother
(for some tiny offence) chose a weak branch that came apart in
her grandfather’s hand
and earned a beating too.

was fourteen and still skinny when she flew over to England,
alone and terrified
with a baby in her belly. The boyfriend at that time was not
the baby’s daddy
but none of that mattered, because everything was about to
change. She had been sent for, finally, by her mother
and would be as far away from all of these men as God
would allow.

She trembled when stepping off the plane. She was about to see
her parents, for the first time in years. How would she tell
them? How would she explain?

is sixteen with screaming Baby Samson, in the North West of
What a mess
and he’s only getting bigger. A real-life mini-man; the sum
of several fears. Growing and growing, faster than she can
handle. She curses the Lord Above. Marcia’s parents step in.
Especially when little Samson rides his small tricycle all the
way to Grandma’s just to get away from Marcia and her mood
swings. They raise him like a son;
never mind a grandson. He even calls them ‘Mum and Dad’
leaves Marcia’s title

Marcia trains to be a nurse.

soon, Marcia, the student nurse, is twenty-six. The man
she loves is a dark, beautiful scholar with some height to him,
some education
and a wife and family in Nigeria. Guinness is his drink.
He’ll be the last one to leave the pub. The last one home and,
most every night,
he turns towards her with those irresistible, glazed eyes,
blackshining. So she can’t stay angry, even if she tries.
But his other home calls and the academic year ends
and their time will soon be up. He knows and she knows
that he will not stay, but they make a child anyway.

she says. Yrsa. I like the sound of that.

From The Terrible (Penguin Books, 5 June 2018, £9.99)


Yrsa_Daley-Ward_290Yrsa Daley-Ward is a writer and poet. Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, she was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the north of England. She splits her time between London and New York. Her debut poetry collection Bone (2017) and her memoir The Terrible are published by Penguin.
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Author portrait © Mike McGregor