The Chaos and the Calm

Poetry by Rose Staveley-Wadham

The Lighthouse

There is a path I remember, and I see
It often, hidden in my dreams,
I feel the smell of it as it smelt in high
Summer, before the memory fades,
And it was the smell of the soil
And of the wave, beside the sea
As it laughed, dazzling, beneath
Our winding way, as we crept through
An orchard, hardly worthy of the name,
For here the trees are weary
And scarcely grow, clinging on to life
Wizened, old women craning over
Their bubbling cauldrons, the air
Heady and thick with the busy buzzing
Of the crickets, the stench of the
Vegetation in the omnipotent summer sun.
But in the orchard all is cold
And the flurry of the day slows, matching
The dismay of the salt lashed trees
As they despair of hope
They will never grow again but we,
We shall finally break through the
Crooked branches, skipping into
The light once more, and we are back
On track, on our way, to the lighthouse,
The lighthouse out across the bay
We saw it, from the windows of the
Great white hotel, and from its gardens,
Slipping, sloping down towards the cliffs
Stilly tumbling, as the bees hummed,
Drawn to the pots of jam to draw them
Away, but we ignored them, and traced
A line to the lighthouse, like it were some
Heathen icon, a siren, a mermaid,
Strapped to the rocks, pulling us in
And we shall go, we shall go to the lighthouse
Today. And today, the sun burns bright
Too bright, they’ve put in me in a
Purple sunhat, my pale skin caked in white
I must be protected from the sun
And her promiscuous rays
We walk single file, it feels like we’ve been
Walking for days, and my young feet are
Tired, and they ache, are we nearly there
Yet, that mounting refrain, although,
Imperceptibly, the lighthouse has edged
Closer, liberated, from the heat haze
And still we wind round the coast
On this our holiday, seven holy days,
And the path broadens, so we can walk
Two by two like the animals into the ark
And by now the lighthouse is no spectre
It is a monstrous living thing, and suddenly
All around me, other people fall in
How can it be? When me and my family
Were alone in the world, and in our quest,
We trod the path as if each grain of
Earth beneath our feet were its own
Pilgrimage, as if heaven were at stake,
And so when we finally reached the
Lighthouse, the fruit did not taste quite
As sweet, for the path had been trodden
By other sinning feet, weary, weary, weary,
But in my dreams I never reach
The lighthouse, and I cannot capture
The joy of those glorious golden hours
Why so few, and turned so sour
By the hurriedly passing years?
And besides, then, so long ago
I was too young to know, too innocent
To realise that all of this would fade
That the people around me would never
Be quite so happy again, and that the
Old hotel that cared for us like a
Benevolent aunt would slide forgotten
Into an unmarked grave
The time is gone and cannot be recovered
And it is only the path to the lighthouse
That in my dreams I can hope to save.


Rose Maguire

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The Orchard

We will not pick apples again
I fear, now that the autumn is gone.
This is the last time we shall stand
In the old orchard, inhaling the
Drowsy perfume of the mouldering
Apples, fodder for the worms.

I remember the excited hubbub,
The swelling murmur, that came
At picking time. In this orchard
There was bustle, and life,
And industry, the locals, coming
And going, enjoying the feast
From the old trees that stretched
Out over acres, as far as the
Eye could see, or at least so then it seemed.

And when we returned
Ducking under fences, scrambling
Over gates, the apples still grew
But no one came to pick them
It was still, abandoned, the trees
Swelled with their fruits
But no one had come to pick them
And so the apples spilled to the
Ground, wasted, their goodness
Seeping back into the soil.

The orchard became ghostly
I could see the shades flitting
Between the derelict huts,
But I could still make out the boxes
That bore the name of our familiar
Orchard, I could glimpse the apples
Green and red and piled high
Proud and ready for selling,
But then I blinked, and they were gone.

We will not pick the apples again
Because here the past is more than
A whisper, it is a symphony of ghosts,
And here in between the trees they
Linger, whilst the orchard they cherished
Falls decaying, a travesty of ruin,
And I stand here in the stillness,
As winter approaches, I pick
One last apple, and it tastes all
The sweeter, after I turned
And left the old orchard
Alone to is everlasting slumber

Rose Maguire


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All about me

I am Rose Staveley-Wadham, an aspiring novelist and poet and everything between. I have so far written four as yet unpublished novels, all of which contain a strong female protagonist, depictions of intense relationships, and are set in the county where I grew up, West Sussex. Some are historical, and are based on my lifelong obsession with the mysteries of the past, that are flavoured by the Gothic and influenced by the temperamental beauty of the Sussex countryside.

I studied English Literature at Durham University, where I gained a First Class Honours Degree in 2013. I studied everything from Old Norse through to Elizabeth Bowen, from Chaucer to Elizabeth Gaskell, and I concentrated my essays on feminism. My dissertation was on three Thomas Hardy n
ovels, and looked at the interrelation of his female characters with the environment.

Since graduating, I have written four novels, and in 2014 I travelled to Spain for a 3 week long writing retreat, which I spent in the mountains above the Costa Blanca. It was a magical experience, and is now a treasured memory, and inspires me every day in my quest to become a writer.

I created this website as a space to share my poetry and my musings. Having been concentrating on my novels for a few years I have fallen back into writing poetry and I wanted a space to share these poems. I find myself writing obsessively, essays, vignettes, and I need an outlet for this creative output. Hence the creation of this website!1557444_10152232470511639_473086206_n

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How Like A Witch

How like a witch I would cast my spell
And fill you with a love that lasts
Like mine does.
It forges its way through empty days
Without fuel in the long lonely nights
The drabness of the winter drub
The cold air is bitter and the snow falls
Down like ashes, a confetti of mourning
And all the while my breath blesses the air
With a tender steam, and my skin
Is flushed red under my thick coat
Aching with the need for you.
But you’ll never trace your fingers
There, nor know what beats beneath.
The air will never part with the relief
Of an ecstasy fulfilled, for our ecstasy
It never begun, you will never hold me
As I long to be held, my bed is empty
Like a phantom I try to hold you
But you slip through, ever inadequate
Even in my waking dreams.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

The Portrait on the Wall

It was better, wasn’t it, when I was a dream?
Unbearable and fleeting, you could never quite
Catch me, for when you woke you could not
Touch me. Oh yes, that picture you painted
Was perfect and dazzling, how I shone
With green eyes glowing
You threaded my hair with kisses of chestnut
Gave me the figure of some other woman
And it was this Frankenstein you admired
I was disjointed, and I was so very chaste
Because I remained elusive, you wanted me more.

And when I was a dream, I could never hurt you
But I did haunt you, I’d be there behind you
Staring from the mirror on your wall
And I’d catch your eyes and hold them there
Such was my extraordinary power
And you said you despised the distance
That held us apart, but if you had drawn me
Closer, you would have touched only air.

Then, I did not know how a dream was something
To be created, plotted minutely out
Like the intricacies of a detective novel.
I thought of dreams as real things with
Minds and hearts that beat on their own.
But when your dream of me turned nightmarish
For you realised I had grown thoughts
All by myself, and all by myself I had learnt to love
You, above all you, only you, you thought it
Better before, when I was the portrait on the wall
Born to be admired, adored like something holy
But there is nothing holy in what passed between us
As I sketch you out and away, warts and all.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

Shadows of Summer

The summer is savage and it knows no mercy
My inspiration is gone, evaporated,
Like the dried up ponds wet with silt
And memories of more verdant days
When we took water for granted.

I’m stuck in the city, and the pavements
They breath out heat, the tarmac
Laughing with fiery demons, and the cars
They beat with nauseating flare
Too many people, too many bodies,
I long for the dappled shade, to be alone,
Alone again, for even the silver birches trees
They understood me, they knew me,
Shaped me as I grew and knew what kind of
Creature I really was, but now, I don’t know
Who I am, the summer has taken away my shade
And there is no place to hide or to find
The fragments of my melting self.

I’ll close the blinds, and make
An aroma of decay, trap the heat and make
It darker, and settle in then to wait
When the rays of the sun will dissipate
Bring me rain, bring me any sort of pain
I think the muse sticks to the shadows
Of the whispering tall willows, lurks
In countryside places, fields and lakes,
The familiar faces of the rolling hills
I’m sick for it, I want it more than lust
For it will bring peace, and stick back together
The broken pieces of my dissipating self.


Rose Staveley-Wadham


This is the lure, the dark pall of hot tears,
Wrenching out from my chest
Fear not: I’ve not forgotten what it is to feel
Only that I appear to feel too much.

And now, I give myself to that wave
Of black emotion, torpid grief at midnight
I want to weep and to wail, and surrender,
Surrender to the swirl of comfortable darkness
For my sadness becomes me, it is me,
And although I’ve made a show of keeping
My head up above the water
My struggling strokes go slow.

And I wonder, what it would be to
Finally go to sleep and forget
All this sweet blazing grief
It’s been like a drug to me
And I could stay curled in a swirl of
Awful oblivion, and not face the day
The streets full of hate
There are so many faces but I’m always
Alone. Where is my tribe?
Where are my people? Where did they go?
I need them to save me from myself
And the honeyed abyss.

But I know, as I lie alone
And regret every second thing I ever did
That only I can look to myself to pull
Me back up by the shoulders
And remind me of such wonders
That somehow even getting up and going out
Is a small and precious victory
That each breath tomorrow
Is a slap in the face to the shadow that
Sits behind me waiting, foul weather friend,
Watchful dirty fiend who bides his time
And waits, gorges on mistakes and holds
Out his gloved hand and invites me in
Oh, that I could never be lonely again,
He’s wicked and he’s tempting
But if I must walk alone, alone I will walk
I’ll shrug off the shadow, and make my
Own tribe, and never hide the sorrow
That lingers on like the notes of a distant
Song, because although I have been to hell
I’ve come back, and that makes me strong.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

Now That the Rain Is Back

I am so glad now that the rain is back
I barely knew I missed it
There’s something exquisite in the way
It kisses my windows
Makes the world outside marbled
And exotic.

The street outside is darker now
And inside I’m marooned
My little room a cocoon
Of soft yellow light
The rain outside whispering
Reminding me that I’m not alone.

I am glad to see the rain again
It’s true that it is my companion
It talks over the echo of my thoughts
Cleans the world and makes it
Marvellous, unravelling spells
Over pavements
A symphony of wind and water
We are cleansed, ready,
To face the sun again.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

The End of Affection

Gone is its lustre, gone is its sheen
An ancient cobwebbed vase made clean
Stripped of its mystery, of its guile, and
All the while I reach out to catch the hem
Of a disappearing dawn, stretching out
My fingers, flexing for a feeling that lingers
No longer, it’s like waking from a fever
When it leaves you, calmed and still.

Down by the river I now walk, and I spare
No thought for you, perhaps I might see you
In a glimmer of the shivering water as it
Giggles below my marching feet
And all the while my blood beats
Magnanimously around my body, what cure
Is this? The fresh air I’d rather kiss
Than your needy lips.

For gone is your lustre, gone is your sheen,
Gone is the life you made in me
I picture you now below in the stream
A skull secreted with the river weeds
It’s gone, gone, the summer passion is spent
And I lay you to rest in the river bed
It’s peaceful there with the reeds
The only witnesses to your silent deeds
You’re lost to me, gone from me now,
And I feel nothing, no, because your
Lustre and sheen have quite departed
Vanished, all those things in me you made
The rages and the savage lusts, obliterated
Turned to dust, the river carries away with it,
All the memories of what was, and it’ll wear
You down further, erode you, crunched up
With the rocks and pebbles, you’ll brush
With oblivion and know what it is to be
Forgotten, because I waited so very long
To forget you, and to leave you there
Trapped in the river where you belong.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

Advice for My Niece

Let your light shine, and brightly,
No man has the right to take away
The things that make you beautifully you.
All my life I have thought that I must be
Someone else to earn the love of others
Skinnier, prettier, trendier, but being a
Woman is when you can own yourself
And know that your flaws are the recipe
That created you in perfection
You are you, and nobody else.

But they’ll tell you, that womanhood is
A curse, they’ll say that ever since Eve
Was cast out we’ve been cast under
But let me tell you, that we women
We rise with the thunder
We have the wit to speak with bright red
Lips and to rip the status quo asunder.

And so take your glamour and your style
Take your vim and your guile
Stand up in the crowd and be noticed
Never hide your face or voice away
And stay loving always, for we are
Loving and strong, that is our battle
Song and throws our foes into strange
Confusion, because in our unity
We love ourselves and each other
And that will earn us our victory.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

Turn Off The Light

Like a light I would switch you off
Like a candle I would blow you out
And in the darkness I would live
Hidden, no, I couldn’t see you there
And if I couldn’t see you, perhaps
I may not care? I’ve been steeped
With worries like sloe berries in gin
Lashed like a sinner might get rid of
His sin, why cannot I forget?
Why is all I touch tarnished, every
Moment drowned in regret?

So like a light I would turn you off
Like a candle I would blow you out
Give me the peace that I crave
I’ll be brave, like an addict I’ll shake
Away the shakes, before my heart breaks
But I know, I know, what’s taking shape
In that mind of mine, give me the wine,
I’ll find the matches, light you up again
Don’t you see, you need me? I need you
Batten down the hatches, here I come
Another tawdry love song, chanting
In your ears, all the night long.

And so you see, that I cannot
Take the light and switch it off
Blow out the candle and forget
The fable of our impossible love
I’ll be standing here all the while
Shivering in my denial, it’s cold,
Cold out here, but I’ll wait,
I’ll wait and wait forever, my dear.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

The Cemetery at Kensal Green

Katie stood amongst the graves
And pondered on the waste
The bones beneath her feet
That grow ever obsolete.

She had expected to find
In this the garden of the dead
A little light she could shed
On the ways of the afterlife
But only found that this life
Is so little caring, that she despaired
Of the grass that ran wild
Over the abandoned stones
Like the moans of the mourners
Of centuries past, but now the
Names of those they lost are lost also
Shrouded beneath the neglect
Kept secluded by the brambles
As nature swallows back her own
Into the greedy black earth.

So Katie stood amongst the graves
And thought it strange
How the bereft could forget
The bones around her feet
The monuments splayed apart
The engravings that cannot last
The winters and all the rains
The seasons that complain
And wipe away the dead
And make of them a curiosity
This is no cemetery but a tragedy
And man in his pride forgets
That for him too in the end is the crypt
That the only end can ever be in death
And wouldn’t man want a little more
Remembering than the blustering
Of the wakeful grass and weeds
Shaking in the dirty breeze
No memorial in lilies, words on stones,
Just the moan of the flyover
Voices from the canal, life all around,
All memories buried deep in the ground.


Rose Staveley-Wadham

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