Accuracy, Spontaneity and Mystery
Tears flowed at the chapel funeral,
more beside the grave on the hill. Nevertheless,
after the last autumn ploughing,
they crucified her old flowered print housedress
live, on a pole.
Marjorie and Emily, shortcutting to school,
used to pass and wave; mostly Gran would wave back.
Two white Sunday gloves
flapped good luck from the crossbar; her head’s plastic sack
would nod, as a rule.
But when winter arrived, her ghost thinned.
The dress began to look starved in its field of snowcorn.
One glove blew off and was lost.
The other hung blotchy with mould from the hedgerow, torn
by the wind.
Emily and Marjorie noticed this.
Without saying why, they started to avoid the country way
through the cornfield. Instead they walked
from the farm up the road to the stop where they
caught the bus.
And it caught them. So in time they married.
Marjorie, divorced, rose high in the catering profession.
Emily had children and grandchildren, though,
with the farm sold, none found a cross to fit their clothes when
Emily and Marjorie died.
The poem is from Anne Stevenson, the American/British poet who was in town last night, reading some of her own poems and those of her late friend, the confessional poet, Elizabeth Bishop. Stevenson, a poet who is ever concerned with memory and how life and destiny are fashioned by words, held the audience by a combination of clear thought, pure rhythm and a quiet charisma.
She has written books on the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop, her latest offering being: Five Looks at Elizabeth Bishop (Bloodaxe 2006).