Imagine That

Grenfell Tower

Image from BBC

Imagine yourself on the phone to your sister
who knows she is going to die.

Imagine your neighbour and your neighbour’s children
pressed against their window hoping against hope.

Picture your father fighting to breathe
as the smoke that fills his lungs half blinds him.

Imagine the mother who must choose for her infant
between certain and probable death.

Now picture the scene as the businessmen gather.
Imagine what they said to each other.

Imagine their smooth, untroubled faces.
Picture their pink and white manicured hands.

Imagine for a moment they knew what they were doing.
Imagine that it adds up to murder.

Picture how the truth might look.
I wonder if you can.

Lee Shore

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Image by David Rowland

 

I remember the day the tied went out,
with my toes in shifting sand,
the day we walked by the restless sea
with our backs to the huddling town:
when the salt breeze lifted up your hair
and I failed to understand
that, on this day, the sky would fall
and the stars flee underground.

We strolled from crop to rocky crop
across the sun-streaked shore,
and laid our fleeting tracks of time
where none had been before;
and I called to you above the wind
but it chanced that you did not hear;
for you turned your steps towards the waves
and I was left standing there.

Perhaps it was the sea’s complaint
that rose and fell in your head;
perhaps, it wasn’t me at all,
nothing I did or said.
I like to think you didn’t know,
that it took you by surprise,
the day you shook the heavens
till the stars fell from the skies.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley (previously Wyatt)

Ice Age

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This time we more than disagree;
the air between us is arctic.
Though I hear the snow shiver
and the ice groan,
there is little hope of a thaw.

I search your face anyway
for signs of spring;
the poppies on your lips still flower;
but your tongue tears
at the root of my mouth,
and your sharp eyes.

The Token

(for Estefania, now gone)

Estef again

 

A caterpillar inched across the path
as we three sat to gossip in the sun.
On such a day as this it was,
and here, on this plush lawn;
the path shone white and he lay
there as bright as any jewel;
and soft he was as any fur
and plumper than a pod.

‘It is a sign,’ you whispered;
‘he comes here to point the way;
and ponderous and slow he is,
yet he comes straight from God.’

‘From where?’ I said, and curled my lip
to think that God might care,
my life in disarray and only sadness in my heart.

‘From God,’ you said, ‘or from that place
where all your beauty is.
He tells you trust in time’s slow work
to grant you wings to fly.

On such a day as this it was
and here, on this plush lawn;
and, though the sun
sank down to sleep,
still all we three
sat safe and close,
just as the evening
air was warm;
and not a passing thought
we had for how the dark closed in
nor did I think this day to weep
to think how true you spoke.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

Perhaps

(On the execution of Lady Jane Grey, 

Monday, February 12th, 1554)

Not, in truth, a martyr but a trembling girl,
how you must have quaked at the scene:
perhaps the spring surprised the dawn,
silvering the close-cropped winter grass;
and, perhaps, you leaned forward for one last glimpse
and felt your child’s heart leap,
a flightless bird put up too late,
its green wings yearning after skies;
and as he came back, in that blood-bespattered cart,
perhaps, you did cry out: ‘O, Guildford, Guilford,
O, my husband, O, my one true love’
as they lead you then where the scaffold stood
against the tower’s white walls.
And perhaps it was there you shook off
your fear, recalling how he laid you down,
an eager bride, half giddy, in the circle of those lifeless arms,
finding comfort, perhaps, to think how brief
a widowhood was destined to be yours
as you mounted the steps, your eyes still dry,
read your Miserere and died.
Or perhaps you did not. Perhaps you mourned
a women’s life unlived and wept to know the greed
of those who gambled with your head;
cursed, perhaps, the father who gave you up,
the husband who could only whine and die;
perhaps you railed against your fate
even as you seemed so much resigned.
‘I pray you despatch me quickly,’ you said
as you laid your white neck down.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

All rights reserved.

My Father Wanted Pauline by Abigail Wyatt (All About My Name Poetry Series)

I am delighted to be represented in the All About My Name Poetry Series currently being run by Silver Birch Press. Especially pleased, too, that this is a poem that enables me to post a picture of my grandmother, Matilda Jane. She was quite a woman. 🙂

Silver Birch Press

Wyatt photo
My Father Wanted Pauline
by Abigail Wyatt

I was a mid-summer baby,
not a Yankee Doodle Dandy
but born on the Fourth of July.
I arrived, they said, not quite on cue
but two warm days too late.
I made my entrance while still unnamed
(my father wanted Pauline)
but Paulines wear cardigans
hand-knitted in pale pastels
and fastened by dainty pearl buttons.
They must have taken one quick peek
and right away known
that wasn’t me.

Matilda Jane Ottley was fifty-four,
my father’s formidable mother.
Never a beauty, already grown stout,
her birthday fell two days before.
I should have been christened for her, so she thought;
in her mind there was no issue, no question;
I should have been Matilda Jane;
or Matilda, or Jane, at least.

It was not to be: the die was cast
their battle lines were drawn;
my mother dug her heels in deep

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