New Poems

Esther
Morgan






Beyond Calling Distance
Silence Living in Houses
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Here are some more recent poems from my third collection which I'm just in the process of completing. Please do give me your feedback. Interiors are still influencing my poems but I'm currently writing more about light and also the idea of visitation and vision, as in the first poem which imagines what might have happened if Mary hadn't been in 'the right place at the right time' for the Annunciation. Here you can read two different versions - the first was the one I stuck with for a long while, but when I came back to the poem I felt it needed more work which resulted in version number 2. This second version was published this year in the magazine Smiths Knoll.

The second poem grew out of an artists' residency which I became involved in at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture based at the University of Middlesex. The artists in question, Barbara Dean, Hilary Kneale and Anne Rapstoff, used the museum's collections to create art and events around ideas of the domestic space. I took part in a workshop which involved participants bringing along objects which had a story attached to them or some personal significance. This got me thinking about those items which have lost their specific history: they may bear the marks of usage but how they were used and why they were kept has not been recorded. I've always been attracted to Dutch still lives and the way they capture both a sense of history and of timelessness. In this poem, 'After Life', I consider how the women who used these objects have also faded from memory but how their lives continue as a kind of echo in the simple objects that formed part of their daily routine.


Among Women [version 1]

This evening I came back home
and everything was just as I'd left it -
except the bowls gleamed with a new knowledge,
the cat wore her yellow gaze like a mask
and I sensed the house had been visited,
saw sun streaming in through the spare room window,
a square of gold on the empty floor:
the clock had lost a minute it never regained.

I was blessed with children anyway,
I shook my life out like a cloth,
yet I am different for not being chosen:
on summer mornings I slip into the garden
before the dew has lifted - I have the blue sky to myself,
a full moon melting like a wafer on the tongue.


Among Women [version 2]


One evening I came back home
and everything was just as I’d left it –

except the bowls gleamed with a new knowledge,
the cat wore his yellow gaze like a mask,

and I sensed the house had been visited,
wings unfurling like ferns in the quiet air.

I was blessed with children anyway,
I shook my life out like a cloth,

and perhaps there is a purpose after all
in not being chosen:

the minute my clock has never regained,
sunlight in the guest room climbing its ladder of dust.

 


After Life 

As far back as great, great, great
    names and faces
        are scoured away

like plates scraped clean
    of painted flowers
        by daughters wanting more.

What remains
    after voice and gesture are lost,
        is less love

than force of habit:
    the angle of a peeler’s
        thinning blade,

the battered wisdom of the pan
    you boil the morning milk in,
           its patina of burnt lace.

If only I could learn to be
    this fit for purpose:
        the passed-down smoothness

of handled ash, a daily-ness
    like prayer or bread
        and the mouth’s need of them.

 


Grace

You’ve been living for this for weeks
without knowing it:

the moment the house empties like a city in August
so completely
it forgets you exist.

Light withdraws slowly
is almost gone before you notice.

In the stillness, everything becomes itself:
the circle of white plates on the kitchen table
the serious chairs that attend them

even the roses on the papered walls
seem to open a little wider.

It looks simple: the glass vase holding
whatever is offered –
cut flowers, or the thought of them –

simple, though not easy
this waiting without hunger in the near dark
for what you may be about to receive.

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