For Vincent Van Gogh, 29th July, 1890

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Image by Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

Sometimes it happens that moved by some trifle
the flood-gates of the heart will seize fast.
Then tears that seemed foolish become a great flood,
a passion that defies all explanation.

In the very young you may see it sometimes
when they throw back their heads and howl,
their plump cheeks red, their eyes screwed tight,
their small fists like windmills through the air.

Do not think it naughtiness. It is no show of mere petulance
but the human condition that has touched them.
They cry their frustration with a world so cruel
that it will not let them have and be.

And the elderly too who have least time left for tears
will weep at the slightest provocation.
This may be what love is: to be touched,
to be pierced by this well-spring that has no end.

Yesterday I watched as three baby rabbits
frolicked after sunbeams in my garden.
Such a tenderness engulfed me.
Later, this morning, I counted only two.

Now, this same evening, a summer storm rages.
It tears at the beauty of my poppies.
My heart bleeds to see them crushed.
As you say, my friend, this sadness never ends.

 

© Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

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Of Spiders and Threads

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Image by David Rowland
By narrow light
of thin, hooked moon
a busy spider spins
to turn to grace
her public face by fair
and private means.
A silver spool, a pool
of pearls, and rubies,
deep as hearts are dark.
Such are the jewels
a spider keeps to bless
her precious work.
Then inch by inch
comes creeping dawn
when spider’s midnight
toils must cease.
The fruits of all her
labour this bright
opal’s fiery face.
© Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Smith

 

 

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.

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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