The Chaos and the Calm

Poetry by Rose Staveley-Wadham


September 2016

Poppies in Shoreditch

The poppies in Shoreditch are at perfect repose
Although beyond the traffic flows, the city thumps
Eternally, jostling elbows, sopranos and beggars, suits
And rags, mingle, the slickers thicken the pavements with their
Smart shoes and smart suits, pointed beards and vintage boots
And yet the poppies in Shoreditch are at perfect repose.

I came here, because I was fearful, fretful,
I wanted to sit in the darkness of the old church
And savour the familiar grain of the inner cool
The hallowed stones and the whispers of ancient worshippers.
But the door would not open, and I turned, dejected,
Another pop up café I could not enter.

And then I found the poppies, the poppies in Shoreditch,
And they were gentle, peaceful, and somehow
More human than the people around me, and they
Heard my prayers more than the sombre old church
Decaying as it rises to cut the soft blue sky ever was able.

The poppies in Shoreditch are at perfect repose,
Red and green and suffering, an immortal memento
Of the horrors that have been. And yet they grow, and grow
Impossible resilience, the phoenix of the flowers,
Enduring, and enduring, as the city around them spreads,
Smouldering, they grow, and grow, and I hope, that when I
Return to St Leonards, I will see them there, and my spirit
Will grow and lift, like the first time I saw them, those
Poppies in Shoreditch in their perfect timeless repose.

Rose Maguire


There’s Something Heavy Sat on My Heart

There’s something heavy sat on my heart
My heart that won’t beat, and beat,
It’s sluggish and slow, it can’t be moving now
With every breath comes a struggle
Life is muddling, a silly riddle,
And all the while, there’s something heavy
Sat on my heart, and it won’t, it just won’t go.

Go forward, go upward, they say
But it only presses me down.
Sometimes I think of it as a dark fiend,
A rogue in a cloak, or sometimes an angry
Friend, yelling, determined, you’re not sick
You’ll spring out of it, oh yes you will, you’ll see.

But were you ever pushed down, down,
Submerged, so low you didn’t think it was
Possible for you to plummet so very deep?
Or trapped, caged, like you live in a box of
Perspex, formaldehyde, limbs frozen,
Like a Damien Hirst masterpiece?

Oh, don’t turn away now, I know
You’d rather not see it, feel, it
Crawling over your skin like the scrabbling
Rope fibres of the noose.
Oh, it’s tightening, frightening, and you’ll
Want to know, is this peace?
Can I ever escape this misery?

And yet, every time you look away
And avert your eyes, no, nothing to
See here, what is it about me that
You fear? When did I cease to be the
Human one? Why do you insist, persist,
On taking the higher ground?

And beat, beat, beat, beats
Some more, the gremlin’s back,
Back at the door, oh I never sought you,
But down, down, below and behind
Your floating cavernous pools reside
Lurking, waiting, licking their lips
Impatient to swallow me whole
And this time they won’t spit me out
Relieved, I’ll stay, won’t I, in this labyrinth,
This prison that has made its home in my mind?
And yet my skin, my skin, itches to be free
And also, somehow, wonderfully at peace
Rest, rest, please grant me rest,
But it is fear that I fear the least.

Rose Maguire

Bunhill Fields

There’s a crinkling, darkling, thrumming in the air
This space, encased by the blank dull faces
Of the windows towering up, unholy spires,
Striving, always shunning the earth down below
Where old bones stay reposing under the restless city’s steps.

They come here to picnic, to gossip, to forget
Perhaps they want to escape too, like the tall office blocks.
They come here to be separate, to chatter, to lose themselves
And to flee the chains of their clockwork existence,
An hour for lunch, here, on this old burying ground.

And do they think of the bodies that shrink,
Decayed, beneath their Louboutin clad feet,
Might once have longed and felt and loved?
That one amongst the mouldering bones
Transcended all temporal notions
An angel in his art he was derided and feared
A true revolutionary, and yet, who stops at
His grave to ponder, to pause a while, to wonder what
Kind of man he was, who once lived and breathed and created,
As they all now live and breathe and create?

Yes, the park keeper and his van, oblivious
Guardians to this most special kind of man
For whom life did not suit and in death he fares
Scarcely better, as office politics, grumbling domestics,
The scraping of the brushes as they clean up the litter,
Leaves tearing from the trees, all pass across his final resting place.

But outside, outside the wrought iron fences, not too far away,
The city moans and it groans, an everlasting rhythm
Like William and his words.
And if I am the only one to lay flowers on his grave
And mourn the flicker of his existence, I do not think
He could begrudge the life around him that fumbles on,
As it has ever fumbled.

And somehow in this spoiling moiling mess of a city
There lurks a rare kind of humanity
Lodged between the flats and the new builds
The pop ups and the shutting downs, the moving ons,
A spirit William might recognise lingers still
In London town, his bridge, his Thames, ever the
Life blood that thumps, thumps, through our ears.
For here is discovery, for here is eternity,
And that William knew, and I do not doubt
That the old poet would be proud.

Rose Maguire


Absence is the very sense
I fear and I feel nothing like it
Cloying, meandering, like drizzle
It sticks stubbornly to my skin.

Absence is the sense of not knowing
Undefeated, my imagination swoops
Over the landscape brimming with
What might have beens.

Absence is the child crying out in the night
Wanting and needing what it has not
Yet learnt to define, only it wants and it needs
As if wanting and needing were the reason it breathes.

Absence is the keening of a dying dog
Bitter and harsh and brutal
It stabs at you in the heart, reminds you that you
Are brittle, fragile, you try to stand tall and yet
Your existence is built on the life of another.

He is absent although he stands in front of me
A memento for what might have been
I painted worlds for him and I to inhabit
And yet he drifted away, fog at dawn,
I clutch onto him still, his presence empty air,
He will not, does not, acknowledge me
As if I am the spectre, the forgotten shadow,
The unwelcome guest at the banquet.

Absence makes the heart grow brutal
Absence makes the heart want
Absence makes the heart seedy and vengeful
As I dream of what might have been, lost
Down labyrinths of my own creation
I can’t even mould him the way I want him
In my dreams, damning, drowning obsession,
Made absent by my words, I only have
Myself to blame, and mourn.

The Dream

I started out by throwing him into the ocean
It was easier that way, than
To stay, loving, not knowing, day by day.

I had to, I had to throw him away
But I can’t be sure he’s gone
As I stand on the shore not looking
Away and beyond.

Once, too, I had wanted
To give myself to the waves
Returning to the water, the comforter
As if I were coming home, into its embrace.

Perhaps it should have been me and not him
I feel it with every inch
I must go into the water, filling my pockets with stones.

I ache to feel the cool oblivion
Unfold around me
Here is absolution, as I drift down beneath the waves.

The cold bitter wind stings me
Licking its salty tongue on my cold bare skin
The same skin that itches, itches for oblivion.

And yet I threw him into the water
And I stay by the shore
Hoping that it would take me instead, from this life I abhor.

How can I want to die and yet wish to live?
And yet, here, I feel so much, the rush of the wind
The screech of the gull, and the sea, the sea fills me with a kind of dreadful awe.

That is why I came here,
To stare at the waves,
And wonder, as my feet start to walk, inspired by a kind of madness
Closer, down to the shore.

I will not, I cannot, I must not,
For I threw him away there
If I am to exist I must be
Nobody else’s
Just me and the wild vast sea.

And so the sea remains
Cleaving through my tortured thoughts.
I will not go into the water,
No, I think not today,
For I threw him there, into the water
And there he shall remain.

Rose Maguire

Storm over Queen’s Park: Part One

Above London, the sky is all the same colour

Never ending, greyer than grey

An uncertain breezes, drifts, lingering,

Hesitates, as if unsure whether it might pass.

The air is heavy, heady, with angry words

That went unsaid. The pent up fury

Is brewing over the chimney pots

Although the bright washing laughs

Strung from window to window

It doesn’t share the despair over the

Too grey sky that glowers

Like an angry headmaster’s frown.

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

Featured post

The Shadows

Half starved I kept to the shadows
Deafened by the darkness
Unworthy of the sun and its rays.
I couldn’t step forward, or stand up
I was stuck, stranded, down in the
Undergrowth I spent my sorry days.
Cool and balmy it consumed me,
Damp and unctuous with dying life.
I wanted to stay there, a tired
Wayfarer, weary of the world and its days.
And then the darkness began to choke me
Rude earth shoved down my windpipe,
Buried alive, coughing up the dust,
Such sweet disgust, the world does not
Want me, it can’t have me, I must sink
Down, down, down, down further
Into the safe black soil, so I can linger
With my neighbours, the roots of the
Trees and their prayers, but God won’t
Hear me in my self pity
I am wretched, deserted, alone.
The skin on my body mocks me
I’d tear it off were I not a living thing.
But down here in the depths not one thing
Can live. I must grow armour, I must
Grow tall so that I can reach the light.
But the light I crave is too far away
Shrouded from my sight
I can remember warmth
I think I know how it felt on my skin
Warming, dissolving, every tender sin.
Oh, take me back, away from here
Lift me from the earth clear
Maybe I can grow again
Maybe I can
Defeat this fear, this dread, my difference
My cross, there is nothing like this loss
I cower apart, alone, away from the
Uncaring crowd. I am lost, where is hope
And what has it done for me?
And I fall to thinking, that if I quit this life
That maybe then I will be free.

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