A Woman Who Writes
‘A woman who writes feels too much.’ Anne Sexton
There’s a price to pay,
always trying to outstare the sun and not go blind.
This handful of words, skin peeled from flesh,
spreads out like a stain, is the genie loosed from a heart.
You spotlight life or death
but the passion is never simple, you are as inward
and as outward as a maze, your voyages smash
against stars or slip beneath rolling oceans.
It’s a strange house you live in,
not hostile, full of embryos and ghosts,
where men and children, food and dust,
the friendly, confessional company of women,
are not enough – are much too much.
Each day breaks over you with startling light,
nights clasp you in their shuddering dark.
You are chameleon, the invisible eavesdropper,
who hears breath beneath whispers as bombs or choirs.
Fill your ears with lead, your mouth with salt,
cast out your eyes – you will still feel too much.
The nurses wouldn’t let me take her into the dry garden,
where wan, heartbroken flowers shrivelled among stones.
They said she’d thrown her meal, smashed
the plate to smithereens – then set the fire-bell off.
They shaded their anger with anodyne phrases.
“She’s been a naughty girl and now she’s overtired.
She’d best stay in and rest. No garden today.”
I sat beside her, on the stone hard floor, held her hand,
stroked fragile, dappled skin, reptilian with age.
“They won’t let you out, Gran. Did you press the fire-bell?”
Faded eyes ignited. Her laughter split the cold day’s side.
Some of us had gathered
Some of us had gathered as she lay sleeping,
small and white, toothless, almost bald,
new born in death.
One held her hand, another stroked
her dry, cold cheek. The rest of us stood,
sat or loitered awkwardly around the bed.
There was no raging, she simply settled,
as if it were a Sunday afternoon, to dozing.
In the early hours, through the ascending light,
some said she opened up her eyes. I didn’t see.
We held our breath, and heard only silence.
Lesley Quayle is a prizewinning poet whose work has appeared in many magazines and journals, including The North, The Rialto, Ink Sweat and Tears, Tears in the Fence, The Fat Damsel and The High Window amongst others. She has two collections – Sessions (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013) and A Perfect Spit At The Stars (Spanna in the Works, 1999) and a poetry pamphlet – Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce Press, 2009), and was a featured BBC Wildlife magazine Poet of the Year. A former editor of Aireings, the Leeds-based poetry magazine, she is also a folk and blues singer.