I’ve no time at the moment to write what I want to about geographical limits to poetry and how far we should dumb down for our (international) readers – a follow on from my doubts and the comments about gossamer.
So instead, I’ve dug out the piece I wrote as a response to the usenet challenge to write a poem including the words – love / soul (or spirit) / insane / shard / tendril / darkness – or variations from the same roots (e.g. as ‘insanity’). It’s an old piece and it’s not the best poem I’ve ever written. Even so, I admit to being fond of it, and of Aunt Emmeline.
Everybody knew Aunt Emmeline
was crazy. Like Ada Doom, she’d seen
something – though she never told us
what. Neighbours said
she should be in a home; instead,
she was a part of ours: an icon
of our infancy.
We children loved Aunt Em – she
was a grown up who understood:
she held my hand
when we watched scary films
and, at bedtime, helped me check
for monsters. She shone
at birthday parties, passed the parcel
and charaded with the best, although
she’d never play at pin-the-tail
or other blindfold games. Our prayers
and candle wishes were all made
in wide-eyed innocence.
At night she kept
the light on and the curtains drawn.
I never knew her go out
after dark. She hated ivy and other plants
with tendrils – just once
I heard her say that they reminded her
No one ever doubted Aunt Em’s insanity
until, one night, they came
and spirited her away. I saw
the darkness explode
in shards of coloured light.
Now, at my daughters’ parties we play
hide and seek, but never blind man’s buff.
Each evening we check the closet
and beneath the beds
before I read a story. Then
I pull the curtains tight and leave
a nightlight burning.