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The Chaos and the Calm

Poetry by Rose Staveley-Wadham

A Cultish Love

Whatever bad blood there is between us let it moulder
And in the years between us as we both grow older
We will take the blood that was shed and raise it up to the altar
Like we are the priests of some cultish order
And celebrate what little love that lay between us
When just to feel you near me was like a caress
As if the very atoms of the air were aware of how
We felt and how we needed each other, like water
I would have drank you all in, and if that love was
A sin, the anger that raged in the days when it all fell
Apart, broken, smashed into fragments, then as
We stand side by side, me the bride I should have been,
Facing the altar, finally we can gain the absolution we
Needed to make the restless affection between us sweeter
If only we could have our time and again and learnt
How our love could have been neater, but we could not
Stow it away for rainy days, for it was a love of rage and
Summer, fiery hot suns and gasping sunsets, when the
Nights were too warm and airless and I longed for you
As you longed for me, like innocents, we felt the space
Between us insurmountable, too much to understand,
Too much to feel, as if feeling was impossible when all
We wanted was to feel close to one other.
But the long nights have broken and we have survived the
Winter, unchanged, spring hovers just across the page
And we must be still, and remember, there is no love
That is lost between us, just a love that has changed,
And I have no doubt that although we cannot be together
We will love and stay loving always.

Rose Staveley-Wadham

Don’t Take Your Coat

Please, don’t take your coat
I’m not ready for you to leave
For when you go you will go
Far, far out of my sight and
Beyond the rumbling city and the
Indifferent concrete walls, beyond
Even the green hills and the
Open fields of the place
That I call home, even though
I am trapped here all alone.

Please, don’t take your coat
Don’t move up out of your seat
And cast your eyes to the door.
I did not ask for this, this parting,
And I cannot decide which I most
Abhor, is it the loving or the leaving
Of you, as you thieve my heart away.

Stay, I beg you, you know we’re
Not done here, it’s still new and
Now it’s nearly spring, and so far
For us to fall, please, think on this
The sweet kiss of the yellow daffodils
They whisper to us that the winter
Is over and that we shall be warm again.

And if you step out, and put on
Your coat, and leave, you will
Never know the promise of that
Wistful fragrance, you will step out
Into the decadence of our city’s streets
And all their temptations, please,
Put down your coat and stay
I told you, spring is near, approaching,
That’s it, I’ll bar the door, I’ll find
The key and pull back the lock
You’ll never leave me
Never want for anything outside
Of my four walls, and when the autumn
Comes, shining, we’ll mourn the fallen
Leaves together, and you’ll understand
Beauty the way that I see it
Perfect but flawed
I wouldn’t have you any other way
Because you, my dear, are just like
Those autumn leaves
Rancid and rotten, spoiled,
But possessed of some kind of beauty
And in that beauty is strength,
So stay, stay, set your coat aside,
Lean into me, and whisper another
Lie, that you’ll stay, stay, forever
And just one day.

Rose Staveley-Wadham

Jewels for Jane Eyre

Jewels for Jane Eyre were unnatural and strange
And they strained their way gasping across the page.
He would have dressed her up and worshipped her
And yet he would slaughter her innocence, the very
Thing that made him desire her, need her, despise
Her like she was his only path to salvation.

She was a witch, and she was a goddess, she was
A pale untainted lady, fit only for sacrifice, and yet
Under the billowing folds of Turkish canopies in
The sun, she would have unfolded herself to him,
And given away the secrets to her magic, and he
Would have yawned and grown bored, another
Maiden despoiled, fallen under his sword.

Not a pixie then, not some startled fawn, just
Jane Eyre, and true to herself, staring out
Across the battlements and running back at his
Word, love runs deeper than spoiling fancies,
Mouldering fantasies, love is imperfect and sometimes
It is untrue, but love lasts, across worlds, across
The moors and the tangled messy years, love
Is spent tears, love is a battle, a fierce unending
Grapple that nobody can ever hope to win.

And when the ashes come, fluttering down, over
Thornfield, the spectre of the past is flattened, damned,
It takes in hand the things we most fear, and it
Grows, gently, a slowly healing scar, everything is
Possible and we can travel far, we can build worlds
Of our own out from the dark, we will not fear anymore.

We stand united, and our jewels will not be worth
Much, indeed they cannot be touched, they will
Last longer than any gem’s shine, and be worth more
Than some ancient golden shrine, indeed, real jewels
Are unnatural and strange, when real love will
Last, embedded across the unending page.

 

Rose Staveley-Wadham

The Starving Fog

There’s a starving fog sat over this city
I wake up each morning my heart aching
With pity, another break of day, and I
Feel I might break because this fog is too
Bleak, heavy, it makes the skies grey
And the buildings grey, and the faces of the
People that swarm around me grey
Everything is grey, and the uniformity is
Sickening, it sickens me, until I think
Am I the sickness? Am I the only one who
Can see this fog, this shroud this city lives under?
Who looks out and sees the same, the same
Unending grey? It has no shades, it’s a familiar
Refrain, through the white blinds of my
Big Victorian window it never changes,
The tall sweep of concrete, the tower block
And the terraces, beyond, the desert of the
Railway and the moving faces, all, all are
Covered by the same disease, a modern plague,
I cannot be one of them, not whilst this
Fog lasts and hangs heavy around me,
Greyer than grey, I take the tube and it flings
Me underground, the tunnels are black
And people’s faces are bitter, angry, and I think,
I think I might taste the blue sky when I come
Back out from the earth, but all I face is a
Dearth, nothingness, oh, apart from the fog
The fog is back, and it hangs on the busy street
Upon which I work, the yawning roundabout,
The upper class graffiti, the vibrant flashing
Adverts, no, Gigi Hadid, I don’t want to be like
You, you may be beautiful but even you
Can’t escape this gloom, this is the gloom of my life
And as I walk, choked by exhaust fumes and the
More exotic flavour of some sophisticated vaper,
Isn’t it stifling, why can’t you taste it?
There’s no freedom here, no blue skies on these
Streets, even when it’s summer the fog still
Shrieks, and I draw my feet on to work, sometimes,
If they had their own minds, they would take me
On journeys, the wonders my feet and me would see,
And they would take the time, rest up, not
Pound, pound, pound, upon the concrete
So intent on being the first, not missing out,
Losing weight, and growing up, mortgages, loans,
Promotions, no, this fog is not a malaise
It is a gift, it makes me separate, and reminds me
That one day it will lift, and I can live again
With the light of the sun my friend, my one way
Lit and shining, not trapped under the whining
Of the world and what I should say, how I should
Be, the fog will one day flee, and I will be free.

 

Rose Staveley-Wadham

Fairy Liquid

Memories hide in the strangest of places
Like a bottle of fairy liquid and
How, towards the end, my grandmother used
It to wash her knickers, I didn’t expect
To remember her that way, marigolds on
The bubbles surging around me, the hot water
Too hot, and she comes back to me, before
She went away, her mood merry, her eyes
Blue and clear and laughing, of course it’s okay
To wash my knickers in the sink with fairy liquid.

But we knew, when she started to wash her hair
With it, that the end was approaching, mouth gaping
But I want to remember her like that, and I feel
She is with me, as I stand by my sink, engaged
In domesticity, I don’t want to think of how she
Shrivelled, wasted away, she was a maverick
Who washed things she shouldn’t with fairy liquid.

That was the only way to rebel in the end
When she had spent a life in one rebellion after another
The woman who could not be tamed, fearless,
Oh, you wouldn’t want to cross her, she’d spit in your
Food if you upset her, her girls, holding the dish up
And ready for her saliva, she’d always speak her mind
Even if you didn’t like it, don’t come to her for kisses
Come to her for indignation and hisses, but she was
More knowing than a pantomime crowd, had your
Back when things got too loud, I feel like I was there
That time at Butlins, a man, pestering her to dance
Because she was beautiful, like Elizabeth Taylor,
But she wasn’t having any of it, she had her man,
Told the other one to get beat, she was being embarrassed
Her with her wooden leg, sit back down,
Although she never had one, but she could
Lie and cheat, and bat her eyelashes, and you
Wouldn’t think she had done anything wrong.

But it’s all done now, all life and vim gone up
The chimney, and I miss her, miss the way she
Got when she finally became cuddly, the grandmother
I always wanted, although she still had her fire
Her vim and her desire, but I swear I could feel her
Giggling away as I washed my dishes, put
Vaseline on your eyelashes, a million little things,
Words I’ll remember, and I can conjure her at
Any second, she’ll linger around laughing, smiling,
Even though she doesn’t believe in things like that
She’ll smile a wicked smile because she knows
She’s still got it, and she’s still got my back.

 

Rose Staveley-Wadham

The Monstrous Sea

The chaos came down tumbling
And finally resolved itself to calm
And calm were the waves that sauntered
Braving the bay with their gentle crackling
Across the silver fine grains of sand.

The storm had vanished, departed,
A bruise upon the distant horizon
Its hurried signature the tangled seaweed
And the confused circling gulls.

You could not stop to trace it
Upon the waters of the ocean
As they breathed, languidly, as if
They had forever been at restful peace.

Because, you knew different,
You knew how before
The waters had rolled like an army
Of stout drunken men, pitching and gawping,
Throwing themselves onto the beach
Like the drowning men the water
Would hope to demolish
Desperate and clawing, their outstretched
Hands embalmed in the pale light of the moon.

Who knew what horrors they had seen
In the monstrous sea, the stars upon them
Glowering, the wind around them bellowing,
Mercilessly, always, always louder
Than the final shouts of the dying men
As they stumbled down beneath the waves.

But the sea stretched out
And became like silk, it drew a curtain
Over the production of the winds and the rains
And now you walk and drag your finger
Across the cold ink water
You paint a pretty picture, a calm watercolour
And no one remembers the frenzy of the water.

It was like all of nature had come loose
From her moorings, and had
Wandered away down the stream
And even the rats could not escape
Their watery dreadful fate.

No, nobody lingers on the horror
The fading still beauty of the autumnal leaves.
We do not remember the torment
It’s like another life that went by
Shady ships in the night
We ignore what went before
For when we look out, we see that pretty picture
A quiet smiling ocean, and a still seashore.

Rose Staveley-Wadham

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

Benediction

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

Scrublands

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.

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