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.