Great evening of readings at the Pitcher and Piano (very nice venue)… thank you to my lovely guest readers and my wonderful editor Jane Commane who made my launch go brilliantly. Oh and thanks to all the people who came…
GIRL WITH A PEN IN HER HAND
That Saturday I lay in bed, head throbbing,
throat on fire, my stepdad chose it
from the library, a biography
about three sisters who lived somewhere
in England. I loved to read
how they loved to write, I wanted to be
a sister like that. If it had been another day,
if I’d not had another throbbing throat…
I’m searching for it now, remembering
how I lay there turning pages
as the pain began to ease, releasing me
into winter on some windy heath.
River Ouse, Rodmell, 1941
The first she prises out, clenched in bindweed:
reluctance adds to its appeal.
And there: not so large as to burst pockets,
several flints conspire
their surfaces glass-perfect, all the better
to slip in without fuss.
From mud, she frees a stump of the fat chalk Down
walked each day, as worn
as the worsted that parcels up her reedy body
ready for anchoring.
Pebbles lean into her, take us they say, take us,
the floods are coming
but like Noah she must leave some behind,
Nesting in the wardrobe
She takes her child-small fists from her pockets, shakes them
till her fingers tingle at the pads, shelters air in her palms
as if it were a white-blue egg that might just wake.
Her time ticks in shameful hours – cedared, Yardley-soaped,
she hides at the back behind black dresses, chiffon blouses,
knee-high boots until the lolling egg rolls from her grasp, blue-white,
slips from her fingertips and she watches it (as if in slow motion)
collide with the edge of the wardrobe door. Skull first,
struck like plate glass, she’s stuck in no man’s land
with only startled air and centimetres between them.
Her voice, huddled in her throat, lets out only the slightest sound,
amniotic fluid flows in rivulets down her wrists, spills like silk.
They say it smells of dead holidays.
I say it always did. And out of season
was never the time to connect anything
with anything here, where you can only
wonder at the sea in all the shades
of grey on Richter’s palette, wonder
where the ice-cream vendors go
and if the deckchair man can really
hibernate in his cave beneath the cliff,
with his chairs, his memories of summer.
On the pier a salt breeze ruffles
a scrap of gaudy poster, and offshore,
somewhere close, a ship’s bell tolls
for something gone, for some thing.