The Greenham sequence includes my own experience of visiting one of the camps as a youngster, and a dramatised sequence of poems about two protests I witnessed. For me it was shocking that the police at the time were so intimidating and threatening to what was largely a group of non-violent peace protesters. Just being there made me a target. It was also the first time I'd been immersed in a mature, feminist-biased group of women who embraced their femininity in a way separate from the consideration of men. A poem about the experience of being a second wife come out of this, although I'm not quite sure how!
His first wife whispers, from books on my shelves
that she bookmarked with mementoes,
her Canterbury tales beside mine, a postcard
from him highlighting the Knight’s tale.
She never lies now, she never says ‘no’.
Her hands are smooth in memory,
he adores her in letters and notes,
that fall from my bookcase and papercut me.
Delia Smith archives their love, florist’s cards
for flowers longer composted than she;
sucked dry in the woodland graveyard, roots exploring
her bones, a silver birch soft in the winter wind.
Anniversaries seasoned their lives in ‘My darlings’,
sprinkled like cinnamon in apple pie
and chocolate brownies, through the Good Housekeeping Cookbook.
‘Love from Mum and Dad’ (not mine).
Letters drop from a dictionary, about babies
conceived, sweaty and earthy nights fucking
her and not me. She cradles my step-children on videos,
birth wet and raw, in her dead arms, blows kisses.
‘I love you’ on a birthday card, a final
celebration before the Nissan Micra crushed her,
death blown and waxy. A still life in the mortuary,
hollowed by death, ageless. I grieved for my friend.
I didn’t know then that we would share him.
I keep his letters nested in a wooden box,
when I die, burn them, so the new wife isn’t pierced
by his words, his love, his passion for me,as it browns and shrivels in the cold.
I started a sequence about my sister, who wrestled with mental illness for many years before her death at 36. Like a lot of survivors of tragedies like this, I found it difficult to deal with the huge loss, the daily phone calls, the shared history, the connection between our children.
I wrote this on the empty room, after she left for the last time.
Silverfish and Wasps
The economy of a decorator who pasted
leftover roses under the window in strips,
each no more than three inches deep.
The fireplace hums with wasps in the loft,
sighs sooty breath when the wind is up.
She kept brushes there, a box of makeup
dries and leaks into her earrings.
The floor dips into hollows, old timbers
creak and gripe. A gap darkens
between skirting and floorboards,
spits silverfish onto the carpet,
glimpsed like mercury spilled.