The Chaos and the Calm

Poetry by Rose Staveley-Wadham


November 2016

His Footsteps Vanishing

Now even the sound of his footsteps
Run through me, when I had thought
I had reached the end of this
Yearning, it relapses, and goes
On and on, I want and I want and I want
Until I think I could desire no more.

But the sound of his feet on the floor
Means that he is near me
And the wooden boards bubble with
The thrill, he was there, I feel him
There in the air when his shadow it
Has passed, he is close, closer
But still he does not come to me.

And I wait, I feel foolish because
The footsteps he left still
Reverberate around my body
As if he had stooped to graze
My skin with the trembling spell
Of his very flesh, that he could
Bless me with his benediction
Turn my desire to something holy
But my prayers disperse vanishing
Just like the shades of his steps
As they evaporate down the hall.


Rose Maguire


In the Woods

I know what it is to linger too long
Over a dying light
The love between us is going out
Its flame sagging in the useless breeze.

It’s a dark night, tonight,
No clouds relieve the black bleak
Sky, the air is still and stifling
And all the while I try to summon you.

But you do not break through
The silver birches, rising skeletal
Bony figures that carry my
Incantations like smoke, up and away.

It’s cold, and I stay perishing
Waiting for some vision
Of you to come pouring through
The woods, or better, you might even
Appear, console me, and take me in
Your arms, what it would be, to feel
Warm again, to know your skin
The tender hymn of your breath
Lying gently on my hair.

But my eyes open
And no such dream do I wake to
The wood is dreary and grim
The shades of night dusty
And my pictures of you
Grow lousy, my heart is cold
Day breaks, and I move, slowly, on.


Rose Maguire


He plucked her, picked her out,
Out from the writhing sweating crowds
And told her that this is what dreams are
Made of, vodka and gin,
Doused her with his fantasies
Took her away from the safety
Of the dancing swarming masses.

Down he led her away across the cobbles
The broken glass glittering like frost
Under the cool of the northern moon.
Yes he called it seduction
As he led her up to the castle
And still she held his hand.

And then, she did not remember
A staircase perhaps and she
Was in his room, naked,
She stood like a statue
Frozen under the electric light
That blurred out the distant moon.

Then he took her, laughed at her
Because she did not have a clue.
She looked away and saw her
Wide staring eyes in the mirror
She could not contemplate those
So instead she looked at his wardrobe
What a shame, he had not tidied his clothes.

And then it was over,
Awful fumbling, and she mumbled
A farewell and left, fled, down a staircase
And through the sleeping town
Her tights grasped firmly together
In her shaking palms
And all the while the tears poured down
Below onto the icy ground.

She made it across the bridge
She did not pause to look at the water
Like she had done before.
She knew now that she was different
Although she was not quite sure how
But her daydreams had always been
Different, nothing like the nightmare
She lived in now.


Rose Maguire

Cocktail of Consent

When I was younger I wrapped myself up in a blanket of wine
It was my disguise, and I would flounder
Under the technicolour lights of the dancefloor
Until I became the woman I both adored and abhorred.
But there was a freedom in that clattering din
As skin rubbed against skin, the sticky sin
Of the vodka that poured, like a sickly fountain,
And we swilled it, willed it, through our blood
And we learnt to forget, we could be transformed
Into wild creatures who were left behind when the night ended
And I gave myself into it, this heady dream,
But they took me away from it, those figures, I see them
Lurking at the door, I see their shadows and how I begged
No, not more!
But they only ever wanted more, more and more and more
They didn’t care for your face although they would say
I like your eyes, you’re beautiful, how they lied
And I remember how I said, although I might be wrong,
Amidst the choking din of the latest hot song
No, I did, I did say no, although the years might have made
My memories cloudy and vague, there is no forgetting
The glut of the rampage, and I feel them on me even now
The stink of their sweat still clings to me, congealing,
How guilty I felt when I finally came back to life screaming
No, I did not want this, no I know I did not,
But they’d call me a whore, I was the one who enticed them on
Hungry gannets, their claws left bruises that could not heal
You see they forgot how to feel in the heat of the club
Lust a brutal drug, a passing excuse to conquer
A girl they picked up and put down again
Like a sweet drink overrun with sugar
They spat me out, destroyed me, made me feel complicit
As if eliciting my body from me was somehow what I wanted
And I see them still, their faces different
Because monsters like that wear many masks
And they loom in my nightmares cloaked in
Dark rooms and dark deeds, the long walk the next day
The lingering dismay, that lingers still because
The shame never fades, and I can’t talk about it
Because when I do I see their smirks and hear their
Triumphant words passing through my mind
Because although they took my body from me
My mind suffered, and so hear this now,
My will and my body are mine alone to give
So touch me when, yes, only I allow.


Rose Maguire

Love/Hate Potion

I have a feeling that he’ll die by the time he’s forty
And that’s not just because of the love he refuses to show me
Don’t say I’ve cursed him, ill-wished him, sculpted his body
In wax and stuck the pins in, chanting rhymes, an invisible hex
Insidious and damning, I’m not at his beck and call, the rise
And fall of the tempestuous words that tumble, flailing
Between us, he was born in a rush and lives as if time is
Running out, and I can’t keep up, I break into a run and he’s
Disappearing away in front of me, chasing the horizon, the setting sun.

And as I sit, muttering over my cauldron, of white wine blended
With my tears, curdling together, I reflect, it is possible to live too
Fast, and I laugh, till my laughter melts away and I find myself weeping
Again, and it’s not the first time I’ve cried over him, and it won’t be the
Last I fear. I stir through my potion, hope swirling with ambition
He will be mine, he will be mine, but no matter how many times I repeat
It, the fragile words taking shape and floating through the air, only
Despair lingers, and I know, and I know, that it cannot be.

I adjust the recipe; the bottles say try me but I pour them down
The sink, to think, I fell so far in my pursuit of a dying shooting star
He would have led me to hell no doubt, I take my cauldron and I fill
It with cold water, and into it I place my hands like I could be another
Lady Macbeth, as if I could wash away the stains of my desire, the fire
That rumbles on inside me although I would forget him still
I will hold them there, and feel the chill run up from my fingers until I can
Feel them no more, and meanwhile the coldness of the water has travelled
Through my body, and I am cured of my love-sickness, once and for all.


Rose Maguire

The Scene Outside the Ballroom

To me when I think of him, I see him
Crunching merrily through his deadly sins
I can’t hear him above the din
Of his bloody heartbeat as it sings
A song of deadly red lust, and I wonder
When will he begin his chase to the embrace
He has summoned through his dark arts.

And then, as if made woozy by my wondering,
My head starts to spin, giddy, mumbling,
As if he has fed me with cyanide, a fainting drug
I’ve become numb, I can almost feel his arms around me
And then I wake, and see us, teasing amongst
A thronged swirl of bloated ballgowns
Creeping, twirling, through the night.

Now he’s menacing in the light of the half
Veiled lantern which turns delight sour
In this the witching hour he consumes me
Leading me away in my dusty pink chiffon
He takes me to a corner, and whispers, every
Gothic delicacy that curls his lips into a smirk
To see me, trapped, his little caught bird.

But these are the daydreams of the night
Passing shadows that glimmer at dawn and fade
He is no phantom, so why should I be afraid?
I could court him into my own trap, and paint my lips
And nails red and veil my eyes with black mascara
And practice seduction as a language I am equally fluent in
I will write the script, and draw the stage,
Turn the gold tipped page and sketch my own ending
And make him no less loving for lusting after me.


Rose Maguire

They Never Look Up

They never look up, and up,
I wonder what they’re so afraid of
As they stare down at their screens
The latest hot episode, the driest
Financial report, as they grasp at their
Newspapers as if they were barriers
That could keep the outside world out.

They never look up, and up,
Their eyes are hemmed in facing downwards
As if sharing a glance would lead
To some kind of epidemic of humanity
How strange, how perverse, that down
Here they cannot let the living of life in
Tinned, crammed together, they must
Keep their silence and forget how their
Hearts are capable of something far
More valuable than shunning.

They never look up, and up,
In here we are trapped in a never-ending
Mime, a blank distant rhyme,
Just getting through, to work, and home
Again, there is no need to speak, no need
To feel, because if they were to speak,
And to feel, they would acknowledge
The vastness of this city, the endless
Rambling of so many emotions, limitless
Pains and needs and wishes, rattling around
Down upon the underground.

Sometimes I look up, and catch
A stranger’s eye, and I turn away
As if scalded, I can’t pretend to be any better
Than they, because in the stranger’s
Eye there is some familiar pain
How wearisome it is be alive
And I understand, why, then it is easier
To devour the new bestseller
To maraud through the free newspaper,
Then to risk a glimpse into the mirror
The shiny other side of the lives
We would keep private, and at home,
And I can here a slimy voice whispering
As the tube continues scrabbling, jolting
Every bend, don’t look up, don’t look up,
I beg you, otherwise you’ll turn to stone.


Rose Maguire

London in the Rain

I hate London in the rain
As if a grey world couldn’t get
Any greyer, here comes a sodden
Woollen blanket that pours
Itself over the city with its
Clean clear lines of the skyscrapers and
The shadows of its yawning fading slums.

The rain here is dirty
It does not refresh or revivify
Like some soothing holy balm.
No, indeed, it is a cloying poison
A lousy lazy acid laying its fingers
On my cheeks as I stomp across the
Pavements and try to defeat the
Sickly breeze that leaves greasy
Raindrops stuck to my face.

The rain in London makes me feel
That the sewers might rise from their slumbers
And grab me by my collar
Whilst down in the puddles the detritus
Sobs, all that litter, forgotten fodder,
The homeless seeking shelter down amongst
The crisp packets and the dead autumn leaves
There is everything grubby about this city
In what floats down through its drains.

But then, when the sun rises from
Its vanishing, and the dawn turns rich
And crisp, and the windows shine with the
Incorrigible blueness of a beautiful winter day
The rain will be forgotten and
Even the queuing cars will sparkle
And my breath will catch at the air
As I stand and stare down at the Thames
The mighty river, winding itself through a picture,
Washing away the dirty stains of my
Memories of this glorious city in the rain.


Rose Maguire

He Does Not Look At Me Now

He does not look at me now
The way that he used to do
At the beginning, the very beginning
When it was all fire and delight
And I would risk anything to feel
Our eyes locking in an intimate embrace
And then I would drag mine away
Steps in an intricate dance
A melody neither of us could understand.

He will not look at me now
Like he looked at me then
When it was both a treat and a
Curse. All that summer
His eyes on me were like
The stinging of a bee
A pleasure and a danger, I could
Not draw myself away, as if I were
Trapped in a bitter honey.

He cannot look at me now
But as he passes I feel
A shiver through me,
The cutting of a baleful wind
Wailing down the chimney, and
An awful thrill consumes me,
As I realise that I want him still.
I need him to look at me
Because when he looks at me
I grow, and I thrive, he gives me
A radiant kind of life that I cannot
Derive from my existence on its own.

Rose Maguire

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