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Death of a Father who was a Poet

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

I live alone by choice. I need to be

Alone to write. There are few friends we share.

It does not matter and we need not care.

I’m part of your own family today.

Two of your children I’ve known since their birth

And I remember how I used to play

With them as toddlers. Since our mother’s death

I’m closer to you, understand you better.

I know that you are proud of what I write.

Do you know how your different gifts delight

Me more and more? Wife, mother, now grandmother

You are a wonder to me. Every letter

You write to me is unlike any other

Since we are blood-sisters which means we have

The gift to read between each other’s lines.

We share a language shaped of little signs

We formed in early childhood. I admire

As well as love you. You can do so much

That I am clumsy at. You’ve taught me love

Is often richer when it need not touch.

Death of a Father who was a Poet

The father’s dead. The son regrets so much

He said or did not say. He would rush back

The wasted hours when he felt within touch

And yet ignored the chance. He mourns his lack,

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Dependence, 23 June 1965 (WUL, 8)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

A Haunting

I feel great warmth towards those I’ve left behind

In the locked ward. Two nights ago I went

To visit them and it was good to find

Them glad to see me. Was it sentiment

Or something deeper? It is all so new

This obvious love of strangers, though they’re ill;

My last three weeks have led me slowly through

More than the dreams which hold and haunt me still.

Violence I’ve seen and I was terrified

But I am frightened of myself much more

Than of the window-breakers. Deep inside

I sense the dark behind an unlocked door.

A Mood of Near-Despair

In hospital

Once, melancholy was a handsome thing

And loneliness a kind of game of chance.

They have grown solid now. I live among

Many despairs. O everyone is tense,

But not like runners. Here, we’ve reached an end;

There is no tape, no whistle, no false start.

We talk of things we dare not understand

And cannot tell the mind now from the heart.

Days are like dreams, or rather nightmares which

We cry to wake from – though we never do.

Love is the distance that I cannot reach;

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Medium 9781847771346


Julith Jedamus Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF
Medium 9781847770684

A Requiem

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

A Requiem

It is the ritual not the fact

That brings a held emotion to

Its breaking-point. This man I knew

Only a little, by his death

Shows me a love I thought I lacked

And all the stirrings underneath.

It is the calm, the solemn thing,

Not the distracted mourner’s cry

Or the cold place where dead things lie,

That teaches me I cannot claim

To stand aside. These tears which sting –

Are they from sorrow or from shame?

At a Mass

Waiting restlessly the coming event,

Hearing the three bells ringing the loud warning,

I look for the lifted moment, the lifted cup,

Feeling upon my skin the Roman morning.

I watch with a critical eye the bread raised up

And confuse aesthetics now with a sacrament.

It is the veils drawn over, the decent hiding

That recall the decorum the test of art demands.

Around me the people pray, forgetful of

Even their painful eyes, their well-worn hands.

I struggle now with my own ideas of love

And wonder if art and religion mean dividing.

Each has his way and mine perhaps is to

Suffer the critical sense that cannot rest.

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Homage to Jung and Freud, 10 October 1964 (UD, 186/1/27) 851

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Now I feel scarred for ever; all confession,

All the long words of psychotherapy

Cannot remove responsibility.

I know that I have become a different person

Because I gave my fears their full expression.

Where does the moral lie and where the lack

Of shame and guilt? Great questions fill my mind.

Trust, the nurses say, leave this behind.

Yes, but I want the innocence back

That came before the heartbreak and the great dark.

Around are many lives who’ve done the same

Slashed at their wrists, taken an overdose.

Yet none of this belittles my own choice

Or momentary madness. Still the shame

Haunts me and taunts me, scrawls across my name.

Homage to Jung and Freud

Forgive me that I mocked at you,

For both of you are dead.

I did what everybody does

When analysed. Instead

I wish to pay homage to you –

Men of science who gave

All that they knew of human minds,

Studied them to the grave.

The joke’s on you, though you would but

Have noted it and gone

On bearing it, just thinking that

All acts that we have done,

The shameful or the silly ones

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