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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Call for submissions: All About My Name Poetry Series

Not much time left to meet this deadline but it is an interesting project and I intend to try to get something together.

Silver Birch Press

name_logo How did you come by your first, middle, or last name? What’s the “meaning” of your name? How do you feel about your name? If you could do it all over (or if you already have), what name would you choose for yourself? How did you get your nickname? Did a childhood or “baby” name stick? We want to know all about your name (or names) — so tell us in a poem for our ALL ABOUT MY NAME Poetry Series.

PROMPT: In a poem, tell us all about your name — first, middle, last (or any combination thereof). Please send a favorite photo of yourself — at any age — to accompany the poem, and provide a caption for the photo.

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish on social media and…

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Surprise, Surprise!

After a lengthy period when my blog simply refused to function – along with the blogs of a number of other people in my geographical area – it now seems that the problem may have been fixed. Sadly, this did not happen before I began another, new blog at Mad Rabbit http://abigailelizabethwyatt.blogspot.co.uk/. However, if all goes well, I propose to keep both blogs running, using ‘Mad Rabbit’ for most of my writing-based posts and this one for the stuff which is more random: meanderings, rants and the like. I am sure you know the kind of thing I mean. 

Solstice

We need more the power of magic now
since we turned our gaze away,
since we closed up our ears
to the earth’s sweet hum
and heard only the great
rasping of our greed;
though we wear our science artfully
still it catches us
and snares us in;
our little learning is lost
to us in this scrabbling
and lusting after wealth.

The ways of magic woo us
now that we are cast adrift.
(It was long ago we broke
our faith when we made
our wants our creed.)
If the great oak cracks
and bows his back
and the green girl tears at her veil,
we will bare our bones
and feed its fires
while the great wheel
hurtles and burns.

For the chorus of the magi calls:
though we shrivel and we shrink,
the dragon rises up to roar
and we must feel its breath;
and we may be heroes, all of us
that grapple with the moon
and brave the flames
to find again our vision
and our strength.Image

Song of the Labouring Poor

(written after the burial of Margaret Thatcher)

We’re all as rich as Croesus now
and the labouring poor is no more.
Class war went of the window;
and, instead, we have social rapport.

Since Marx was proved wrong, the militant left –
and it never did know what was what –
has found itself bruised and divided,
bereft of all hope and sans plot.

Today we have ‘strivers’ and those who ‘aspire’
and consumers hell-bent to consume;
but, try to disguise it however you may,
the truth is it’s all bust and boom.

Joe Public won’t even get angry
at the way the big banks carry on:
he’s stupid and slow and appears not to know
how the great money swindle was done.

No one believes in the family of man;
it’s every man jack for himself.
It’s less about truth and conviction than
power and status and personal wealth.

At the top it’s all champagne and roses
and, while those in the middle get squeezed,
they still get to look down their noses
at the class this last century deceived.

But it may be the time is for turning:
this circus may prove the last straw.
The bonfire she lit is still burning:
may its torches not light us to war?

 

The Chorus Speaks

tragedy-mask-wearable

The Chorus Speaks

Nothing worth having comes easy;
competition’s the spur to success;
it’s all about effort and purpose and will –
and the need to save more and spend less.
But some of us now have grown lazy and soft
and the truth is they don’t want a job.
We’ve created a culture where welfare’s the way
to sit back and relax and live high off the hog.

So it’s three rousing cheers for the great and the good,
and the ‘strivers’ who toil nine to five;
to the idle, though, go a curse and a blow:
why should those who graft support those who skive?
The case, after all, is transparent;
it’s logic can’t fail to impress:
if it wasn’t for them and their scrounging,
we wouldn’t be in this mess.
And it makes my blood boil, if I’m honest.
You see it emblazoned all over the press:
the work-shy and shiftless who won’t pull their weight:
well, aren’t they a drain on the rest?
If it wasn’t for them we’d be laughing,
There’d be jam every day of the week.
We have to work so why shouldn’t they? I say:
Let’s CRACK DOWN on the benefit cheats.
It’s high time they got up off their arses:
all this something for nothing won’t wash.
The country needs strivers, not skivers
who live on their wits – and our dosh.

That said – and it’s hard to admit this –
it’s troubled me lately to see
how the bankers get bail-outs and beanos
and the rest of us – AUSTERITY –
and we’re told that we’re in this together;
but it doesn’t seem like that to me.

It’s cuts in this, and taxes on that;
and the old and the dying are told they must ‘strive’
while the young and the hale and the hearty
have no other choice but to ‘skive’.
They are jobless and hopeless, and full of despair,
and we offer them not much they need.
Is it possible we are mere pawns in a game
dictated and mastered by corporate greed?
And might it not be that we’re all being conned
into thinking that ‘they’ are to blame:
the shiftless, the work-shy, the chronically sick,
the old and the weak, the mad and the lame?

And the men in grey suits, what’s in it for them?
They say that the cost of compassion’s too great
but is it the logic of profit that drives
this shameful undoing of the Welfare State?
There’s no heart in a culture that grows smug and fat
on the backs of the weak and the poor;
how can it be true that we can’t afford love
when, always, there’s money for war?

‘Murder of Krows’ Anthology Launch with Dr Alan Kent and Redruth’s Own Les Merton

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‘Murder of Krows’ is an anthology of work by poets living and working in Cornwall, many of them closely connected with the Camborne, Pool and Redruth areas. The anthology is a not-for-profit venture and is the first major project of the Red River Poetry Collective. The collection has been edited and produced by fellow Red River Poet, Duncan Yeates, in conjunction with myself and it will shortly be available for just £1 per copy.

The launch evening for ‘Murder of Krows’ has been arranged for Wednesday, 20th March at The Melting Pot Cafe, Krowji. Our special guests will be Dr Alan Kent and Les Merton, both of whom have been gracious enough to show their support for this project by agreeing to read from their own works. In addition, there will be readings from some of the contributors to the pamphlet, Duncan and I included, a display of work from CMR artist, Janet McEwan who is among the contributors, and music from local singer/songwriters, David Rowland and Aston Drees.

The aim of this anthology – and of the Red River Poetry Collective generally – is, firstly, to encourage and support local poets and, secondly, to raise the profile of poetry in the Redruth and Camborne areas. We hope that lots of people will support us in this and there are a number of ways in which you can do this. The most obvious way is by coming along to the launch evening and buying a copy of the anthology. (The Melting Pot Cafe serves excellent coffee and a range of beers, wine and spirits.) There is no entry fee for this event and there will also be a free raffle. Alternatively, however, and if you can’t come along, you could do one of the following: order a copy of the anthology through me (which can be posted if necessary for an additional charge of 50p); contribute a prize for the free raffle (literary or artistic prizes are welcome);put up a poster in your place of work or study (contact me if you are able to do this); or simply share the link for this post and encourage your friends to do the same.

If this event is a BIG success we will be able to produce another anthology later in the year. Many thanks for reading and in anticipation of your support.

On the Perils of Speaking Out and an Encounter with Mr Angry

I am not always very good at keeping my mouth shut. Once, a very, very long time ago, I was briefly and most unjustly, detained in what was then called a ‘remand home’. On the first morning, after a dismal and meagre breakfast, all us ‘girls’ were marched off to ‘lessons’ which took place in a vast and chilly hall.

One of the instructors – I hesitate to use the word ‘teacher’ – began castigating a girl, somewhat older and tougher than I was, for her stubborn refusal to read aloud. She was a poor reader and, after a stilted and obviously painful beginning, she had dried up completely.

The instructor was a thin, hard-faced looking woman with a neat, pleated, plaid skirt and a nice line in sarcasm. For a time, I watched her torment her victim whose faces burned an angry red. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I stood up and spoke out.

‘You can’t talk to her like that,’ I said, and I really believed it. There was a terrible hush as all the other girls looked a me. I saw quite plainly the horror in their eyes.

After the briefest of pauses, the outraged instructor turned her attention to me. I was left in no uncertainty as to the contempt in which I was held and soon I, too, was flushed in the face and very close to tears. I was given a book containing some simple comprehension exercises and sent to work alone in a corner. I was not to to speak or be spoken to for the remainder of the morning session.

I though about this incident the other day when I had occasion to ‘speak out’ again. The context was a very different one but, once again, I could very easily have found myself wondering whether it might not have been better just to bite my lip. The trouble is that I never really stop to consider the possible consequences and, one day, this might well be my undoing. This is what happened one Sunday morning on the way to a visit to Heartlands.

David and I were on our way to an open mic event at the Red River cafe. The day was chilly but bright and we were in a good mood as we strode across the car park. David, eager for his promised breakfast, was a step or two ahead. We were still carrying on a conversation as I followed behind.

As we approached one vehicle, a man opened the driver’s door and came round to the rear of the car intent on opening the boot. As he did so, David and I passed by and David’s arm very lightly brushed his elbow. The ‘collision’ had been so inconsequential that David himself was not aware of it and he did not see, as I did, the man’s features twist into an expression of angry indignation, as he turned round to confront, not David, but me since I was following behind.

The man, who was, I would guess, in his late twenties or early thirties, emitted some dark mutterings. These were clearly directed at me but the sense of them I could not understand. I stopped in my tracks, pulling up short, and turned round and looked him.

‘Sorry?’ I said. My tone was questioning. My demeanour expressed surprise and bewilderment.

‘Don’t mind me,’ he he snarled nastily. ‘I’m just getting to my car.’

‘It was nothing,’ I told him in disbelief at his manner, ‘and I’m sure that nothing was meant by it.’

‘Well,’ he said, downright surly now, ‘you could see I wanted to open my boot.’

‘We were merely following the path,’ I said. I was still struggling to understand why he was so angry. ‘You are, I am afraid, a very rude and aggressive young man.’

This was the point at which, I suppose, he might have produced a knife. David pointed this out to me a short while later. He might have had a knife and he might have used. Sadly, such things have happened. On this occasion, though, what happened was this: he bowed his head and looked suddenly ashamed.

Perhaps he had realised that, in front of his wife and his three young children, he was being very rude and unnecessarily aggressive to a couple of older people whose only ‘offence’ had been to pass too close to the boot of his car. I wondered whether they were about to go shopping. The car park was close by Tesco Extra. Tesco Extra is crowded at that time on a Sunday. Bloodshed could have been the result.