The Chaos and the Calm

Poetry by Rose Staveley-Wadham


January 2017

Where Did My Light Go?

Where did my light go? What did you do to it?
Where did you hide it? I search, when night is
Low and dusk is glowering, the frowning red
Sun turning my surroundings into a molten hell.
Where did my light go? Where did you take it?
I stand in my mirror and I see the shell of me
Where once was life, and vitality, I see, I see
A crustacean crawling across the earth
A dearth of beauty, a passing heady spark that
Was once, and will never be again, for you
Have taken my light away from me and
Only in the mirror can I see the truth of
My barren self, stripped of happiness, and of
Health, that glow, that shine in my eyes,
Oh, how glad I was to be alive, but now,
Outside, the sun is done, and has left behind
A livid wound that haunts the aching city skies
A faint hope of light that laughs taunting before
The darkness, and I fall back to my mirror
And wonder, where you have taken my light?
How did you slip it from me? Was it deep night,
And was I sleeping? Are you happy now, that I
Grow odious without it, I would take a pebble,
A rock, and dash it across the brittle frame of the
Mirror, telling me lies, telling my youth is disguised
By some petty love affair, that you took from me
My light and my laughter, my heart and the care
I once held for myself, mirror, I can be beautiful
Even if you mock me, and show me that I can never be
Like all of the other girls, you pick out my flaws, but now
I close my doors on you, just as I hide away
From the impending night and draw the curtains
I will keep you out, and from the shards of glass
Of the broken mirror I will fashion a strange kind
Of fire, you see, I had intended, to take the teeth
Of the shards and set them into my skin, and the blood
Would shine just like the embers of the fading day outside,
But it would not do, to cover my room
And make of it a scarlet study, I push those thoughts
Away as I take the broken mirror and kindle a fire
That will burn brighter than any light I once owned
I will bring my light back to me, and never let it
Be stolen away again, by any lover, or any friend.


Rose Maguire



Sometimes it’s a lonely hopeless fondness
A yearning stranger on an empty train
Casting fantasies over the passing wildernesses
But other times, it’s a black congealing bitterness
A frightful bruised stain, and the anger it rises
In a righteous refrain, the song of the scorned,
The damned, and then suddenly it transforms itself
Again, to the grieving widow at the altar rail,
Railing over all that she has lost
Loss, the aching cavity where her heart used to sit
And beat, then the singing congregation bustles
With a shriek, and the pale dead woman under the
Veil has grown wings, she smirks at the priest,
My God, she’s mad, glad that’s she’s not the
Woman scorned after all, but a woman damned,
Damned to play out her life as just another harpy
Stuffed full with impotent jealousy
Schemes and fancies to take down that other woman
The one that replaced her, and stole her crown,
But am I she, the woman damned?
As I huddle confused under the dust of the catastrophe
The wreckage where our love used to be
And I wonder, where did it all go wrong?
When did the bombs start raining down?
Why did I not seek shelter sooner,
When our love was greener, and newer?
But it is gone, lost, underneath the rubble
Toil and trouble, and I want to curse you, damn you
Rip you in two and feed you to the dogs
But that will not replace that which I have lost
No, for when the fury dies, a strange type of calmness
Resides, I look on you and I would wish you well
Even though I would try to cast you under
My spell, my desires dissolve as I wish you well
My benediction, after all for you I lost my heart
And I hold it out in front of me still
I am not my own because in me another heart beats
On, and on, and although you will not look at me
Again, in the way you used to do, I will know the
Perfect fragile joy of once having loved you.


Rose Maguire

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

Featured post


This was the scrublands, the mad lands, the bad lands
She had fled to with all of her might like she could
Scrub off the madness and the badness in her
It was no surprise that all that befell her was bleak
And unrepentant, like her shattering, shivering, heart
The scrublands were after all a wasteland, nothing but
Grass that has got sick of growing but is too tired to die,
Withered, old, like an old man’s fingers, or his white splayed
Beard, these are the mad lands of her imagination,
Shopping trolley parked, danger, there might be needles
In the scrublands, the bad lands, she was always taught
To fear, but here, slowly, she comes to her senses
Hears the wail of a passing train across the metal fences
Barbed wire to keep it away, or to keep her off the tracks?
She’s drenched in a kind of frenzy, she must, she must get away
But all routes had led her here, and she wonders, will she
Have to spend her nights under cardboard, her days begging
With a paper cup? Spare any change? Any change at all?
But nothing changes, and that is why she is here, stood,
Confronting, every little thing that she fears, on the scrublands
The bad lands, the mad lands her parents told her not to go to
But she went anyway, she had to see what they were like, there’s
A bright light fuzzing, bright and blue, buzzing as the dusk
Falls down and the disappearing afternoon turns colder
Someone’s switched off the heating, there’s no leaving,
She’s rooted to the spot, the cops whizz past and she’s alone
Alone, like she’s always wanted to be left, how did the world
Turn so ugly, so brutal, so bereft? Where is the beauty that
Can be adored, here in the shadows at the end of the world
The world that man has made and abandoned, no one stops
To think, they pass it with a shiver, and a shudder, they don’t
Remember, oh, the effort it is to recall, that girl
In her desperation, and her flighty fall, down in front of
The rails, she had climbed the fence after all
It was not so insurmountable, although her desperation was,
And the scrublands had driven her there, the mad lands
And the bad lands that had turned the scenery of her mind
Rancid and rotten, they had broken her, until they were the
Sad lands, the lonely lands, which she could not come back from at all.

The Bridge

I close my eyes and I picture The Bridge
That Turkish fantasy under the rails of Shoreditch
Away from the High Street and the bells of St Leonards
Lurks baklava and a sepia bar facing backwards
Antiques, remnants, forgotten photographs and golden drapes
My eyes were enamoured, intoxicated by fate
And then there was the rum, the Navy’s own finest
And my eyes grew wide, starry, I was in heaven at its highest
There on the bar stool at The Bridge
Like something out of Dickens, or perhaps even New York
I could have sidled off the sidewalk, up to you,
My breath all rancid, yes, there’s a clue
It tells a sorry story, of white wine, and of gin
Have me, take me, why do you never let me in?
But hang on a second, wait, let me think,
Do I long for you, or do I just want another drink?
But the clock ticks, there, I can see it
And the last tube has gone, vanished,
So here comes another, another shot of rum
And overhead, beyond, the overground rattles
Although my mind with it battles, surely we
Should be drenched in smoke, from the weary days of steam?
And I could really scream at you, I want answers, and now
I am the prosecution homing in, but the prisoner
At the bar goes all blurry, until you’re the only solid thing
Although you are elusive, like Sherlock Holmes in his fog
And you dissipate under my desperate touch
It’s too late, too late, all it is is another missed chance
It’s closing time, last orders and then the very last
And out onto the pavement I am cast, it is colder
And I’m a thousand years older, but still hell bent
On loving you, but away I am bundled
Fumbled into an awaiting taxi, oh, what you have
Taken from me, nothing real, but that’s the problem
It’s just the might have beens, the possibilities,
And meanwhile I’m passed out silly
My breath hot against the cold car window,
Me a widow to the love I think I’ve lost, and the cost
Of those damned drinks at The Bridge, which stole
My reserve and showed me the possibilities,
The what might have beens, until you put a stop
To it, and stowed me away in a taxi
Wrapped me up in a coffin, and sent me away
Comfortable, dozing, snuggled up in a hearse.

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