I have been sorting out papers and have come across a few poems which seem to have slipped through the cracks when copying from one computer to another over the years: I don’t have copies on the current laptop, and I don’t remember seeing printed copies recently.
I haven’t exactly forgotten them, though, as the title or first line is enough to trigger almost complete recall of the words. This is why I find editing and revision so difficult: by the time I commit the words to writing, they have become fixed in my mind.
When I came across Cousin Grace it was like seeing a familiar face – albeit one I feel could do with a make-over:
In gauzy skirts and red high heels she treads
between the lines, dancing a pictogram
no one will read; her fingertips caress
the rough trunks of trees and telegraph poles.
She sidesteps ladders, gives way to every
passing cat, and greets lone magpies with civility.
She looks askance when you walk widdershins
around the church, leave salt spilled
on the kitchen countertop, or drain your wineglass,
heedless of the gods. She keeps her fingers crossed
behind her back and prays religiously morning and night
With her affinity for trees and telegraph poles, I thought she might like the timber in the photo. The poem is old, but the timber is far, far older, as it was salvaged from the site of a mediaeval tavern.
Perhaps if I could come back to my poems after 600 years, I might have more chance of achieving the objectivity that makes revision easier.