I've been performing at open mikes and features, mainly in London, for the last few years. I'm as happy to watch and listen as to perform but always happy to be asked. The poems below have been published in South Bank Poetry and Ariadne's Thread.
for Lillian Lenton
She approaches it like any other uncomfortable occasion -
a wet afternoon on the hockey pitch
a long practice session of en pointe and echappe
or the butchery of the dentist
thank god her teeth are strong
because if they break the wardens go in through the nose
she thinks about the word Fortitude in her prayer book
from Sunday school, ornate in red and gold.
The word supports her as the hands push her in position -
her instinct is to push her lips together, to open her mouth
only to shout defiance. Now at the crux of her life
where “Deeds not words’ catches her with the full force
of meaning. Now she hears the doctor’s footsteps echo
with ‘suppressed satisfaction’, smells disinfectant and
the reek of self-righteousness, feels the hands, sees
the fat fingers rubbed red like an extension of the tubing
delirious she dreams of escapades and escaping -
her speciality - the tiny, wily pimpernel.
Dreams of japes alone and with her sisters.
First flickering of the fire she set at the tea rooms at Kew.
Her current rate of arson two a week when not in jail.
Dressed as the errand boy who came to the door,
and munching his self same apple,
Dressed, like fifty other women, in a heavy veil
she’ll take her leave while policemen
take pride in their hyper-vigilance. At the age of
thirty she’ll go to the ballot box at last. She’ll meet
DH Lawrence, introduced to her as the man
who thinks only of sex. She will stand outside
Parliament with her sisters, wearing a cloche hat
and a fitted coat. She’ll tell her stories on the radio.
But now the rippling agony in her throat
as the tube pushes down to drown her scream
thick splash of liquid in the funnel, smells
like the rancid milk of a monstrous mother
two doctors and seven wardens standing over her
each hand pressing down, holding down,
capturing every limb with force, too late for her to choke
cold liquid hits the core of her, her stomach,
that is not her core, escape is her speciality
she closes her eyes sees her prayer book
supports herself with fragments of another age
illuminates the word she sees in modern colours
purple, white and green. The word she sees is Freedom.
A rough guide to the ghosts of Venice
At one Carnival some sprinkled rice flour
on the tumours of their skin
to hide the plague,
weak, but fortified
with grappa, they danced
like crazy to make one last seduction.
In the city built on trees bolted into mud
and turned to stone, death
is a refrain - ground
into reflected stone
the air smells of bitter herbs
skulls jeer at angels in stoic fascination.
It is often hard to find the line dividing
land and water, air from mist,
on a pigeon’s breast,
all this he would have loved
is loving now beside you in imagination
All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.
Synaesthetes night out at Cafe Oto (04/04/2013)
Blog link: http://writeoutloud.net/blogs/paulinesewards
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