Three poems by William Wootten

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    Mindfulness

 

Imagine truly being in the present,
Our every thought upon a plane like one
Mapped out by Euclid. Here, the garden sun
Is eight minutes old and there is a pleasant
Sense of valediction to the moment,
As the moment leaves us like a houseguest:
Bags stowed, she is waving to us from the car,
And we wave back, till suddenly we are
Years hence and looking at the curve of her best
Handwriting while we puzzle at the comment
In the book in the spare room. Imagine
We had rushed up to the car to say
‘Don’t go right now’, and she switched off her engine,
Changed her mind and told us she could stay.



 

The poems ‘Not Mentioning Something’ and ‘A Rainy Day’ are extracted from a narrative sequence based on the tale of the Sleeping Beauty.

 
 

    Not Mentioning Something

 

When is a child not a child?
When do the long days stop?
When does a careless skip and hop
Become self-conscious?
The thin-mouthed governess
Who filed
Her nails though years of questions
Did not know, yet gave suggestions
Of what to talk about instead,
Then put each problem safe to bed
Like books shelved in the cupboard.

But, there were lessons to be learned,
Another governess
To stand up in a heavy dress
And smile at the way
The wise words of the day
Were turned
To flawless copperplate.
Maybe, should she only wait,
The good Princess might just recall
The true significance of all
She took down from the blackboard.

 

    A Rainy Day

 

The good Princess had learnt Geography,
Etiquette and languages, and that the world
Was happy as herself. So, if she sometimes curled
Up in a corner on a rainy day
To feel the drops slide down the casement, she
Had seen it as another form of play
To let the world that loved her let her be.

Dull princes came with whispers of a match.
And she would drop her eyes and smile for them,
And curtsy, looking grateful for some gem
They grandly had bestowed, take leave, then could
Race out to the mews to play at catch
With the new stable boy until a footman would
Come warn her of some task she should dispatch.

But nobody expected she’d accept.
Not really. Not for some years yet. In fact,
The King and Queen admitted, only tact
And diplomatic ties had stopped them banning
The princes altogether. They had kept
On reassuring her, there’d be no planning
Any marriage until the time she slept

Upon her sixteenth birthday. She had danced
Today, and later she would sing and play
The harp for whomsoever had come to pay
Their kind respects. She had better go
And do her practice; she had barely glanced
At everything there was she ought to know
About her guests. She would have to be entranced.

Rain sluiced the darkened corbels, towers
Dripped on dignitaries, and the stray Princess
Sang softly to herself, could more or less
Make out the shapes within the small glass squares
Of a phantom girl content to let the hours
Drop to years, lost in her transparent stares,
Then hastened to quaint pleasantries on showers.

 
 

William Wootten

About William Wootten

William Wootten lives in London and teaches at the University of Bristol. His collection 'You Have a Visitor' was published by Worple Press in 2016. He is also the author of the critical study, 'The Alvarez Generation: Thom Gunn, Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath & Peter Porter' (Liverpool University Press, 2015). His annotated edition of the Selected Poems of Walter de la Mare is forthcoming from Faber & Faber in 2020.