woman's face underwater
Photo by Daisa TJ from Pexels

Bluebeard’s Wife by Amber Bradbury

Tell me,

I say one night in bed,

how you killed them.

He has taken to sleeping

with his back to me ever since

he found the blood on my dress,

the one I tried to scrub,

to salt and soak, to bleach

and eventually fold

that rust-coloured stain

in a bottom drawer.

Only the pillow hears

his reply.

Tell me,

I say again in his ear,

was it poison?

A gun to their head?

Leaving patterns like tea leaves

at the bottom of your cup,

did you read your fortune

in those chunks of skull, those hunks of hair,

that smear of grey brain matter on the Liberty wallpaper?


I sink my fingers into his curls,

tongue murderous against his cheek.

Perhaps it was by one of your large helping hands

they tripped and snapped

their neck

as they fell head over heels

down our polished stairs.

Maybe you held them

two feet under

as they thrashed and kicked

and scratched their manicured nails on the enamel

of our claw foot bath while

the water went cold.


was it like this?

And his breathing is fast as I spread

all five of my fingers around his throat and hear him moan



Amber Bradbury is currently studying for a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature with the Open University. She is also working on compiling her first chapbook. Her first flash fiction story, "Waiting for the Snow", was featured in Litro magazine and this is her first piece of poetry to be published.

Author's note

The folk tale of the murderous Bluebeard was read to me as a child and has captivated me ever since. But with each revisitation, I found myself more and more dissatisfied by the final wife and her fairy tale ending, although she was curious, she seemed ultimately passive and still needed saving by yet another man. In my poem, inspired by this tale, I wanted to rewrite the marriage of Bluebeard and his final wife. I wanted to give voice to this wife and provide her with an alternate fate that did not involve her fleeing; I wanted her to stay and fight.