Poetry from Penzance to Wales -Abigail Elizabeth Rowland (Ottley)

Confessions of a Circus Performer

Poise is all – even when sleeping –
there is memory in musculature.

From girlhood onwards nights without ceasing
I have fine-tuned my entrances.

Ascending the ladder, every step a gamble,
feeling the spring in the platform.

When I strike my pose I hear you whisper
Only remember to breathe.

To step into space is the hardest thing
feeling for the slack in the wire.

The sea-bed below me swims nightly with flatfish
their dim eyes turned up to see the stars.

Now I am grown into the pink suit of my skin
my left toe extends to direct me.

Performance is all. That is the lesson
you have taught. Look. See how I fly.

Caveat Emptor*

Hieroglyphs like tracks
left by sparrows in fresh concrete
you scratched on the surface
of my heart.

I scoured them for meaning
forgetting there was none
your business being
only to impress.

On the car lot of my life
you knew when to defer
when to smile, how to
thaw my resistance.

You dealt in cars and promises
sold your love
/as seen/.

*Buyer beware

Time Traveller at The Merry Maidens*

His greenstick legs in khaki shorts
poke out, milky pale.

An open-mouthed rucksack
disgorges its contents littering the grass.

His back is propped against a sun-bleached stone,
the Maiden he has chosen.

This is early October. Unseasonal warmth.
The tourist sprawls blissfully asleep.

Startled from his nap he scrambles
upright, stretches his stiff limbs awake.

He smiles a bashful, stranger’s smile,
brushes the tell-tale red dust from his clothes.

How beautiful is this place, he says
He offers up his arms to the sky.

No postcards, ice-cream, souvenirs.
No kiosk and no crowds.

Here there is nothing. Nothing to buy.
Just time and these old stones.

*The Merry Maidens is a circle of ancient standing stones located in West Penwith in Cornwall. According to legend the ‘Maidens’ were turned to stone as a pushment for dancing on Sunday

Day Out, East London, 1957

the first time I went underground
chaffing in my too-tight tweedy coat
I stared at the men

at their sharp, hopeless faces
their greedy eyes
glittering like stones

through the grey hollow tunnels
they hunkered like beasts
trousers stuffed with sheets of old newspaper

some swigged beer from thick brown bottles
others stuck their hands out
or slept

one man we saw wore a hat like a chimney
he looked like a toff
my nan said

when she gave him sixpence
from her big black purse he
lifted his hat and called her /Ma’am/

sixpence was a lot to give
I thought
I wondered why she did it

my beret was pink
made from something called /angora/
it tickled your face

my beret was pretty
it was stitched with jewels that sparkled
like the stones in a ring

where did they come from these
fierce old men who looked
even older than my granddad?

did they have houses
a place to sleep
did they even have names?

my coat was too hot and scratchy
that day at Trafalgar
we went to feed the pigeons

one bird swooped down
snatched the food off my palm
in the photograph it might be early spring

I want to live forever in Wales

where dogs on shining beaches chase after
yellow tennis balls and always bring them tail-wagging back —
where the tender lapping ocean ripples through rainbows
before it slips into the arms of the sky —
where windmills and sea-gulls compete to discover whose
glittering wings in their dipping and soaring
shine best in the late low sunshine —
I want to live forever in Wales.

I want to live forever in Wales —
where morning clouds are blown away and day
tucks her skirt into her knickers —
where business-like hills roll up their sleeves
to prepare for a proper week’s work —
where big-bellied women with up and down voices
sing shopping lists like arias in Tesco’s —
where dogs are always welcome and dolphins come
leaping tomorrow or the blue day after —
where Cardigan Bay sings her mountains
most sweetly —

I want to I’ve forever in Wales.

About the contributor

Abigail Elizabeth Rowland grew up in Aveley in Essex. She moved to Redruth to teach at Redruth Comprehenive School where she taught until she left teaching in 2004. Since then she has made her home at Druids Lodge which stands in the shadow of local landmark Carn Brea. Here she lives happily with her singer/songwriter partner, David Rowland, Rabbit, and Percival Dog. She occupies her time by writing poetry and short fiction, dabbling in amateur theatricals, and both attending giving performances, readings and workshops. She also cares for her elderly mother, Barbara, who lives next door.

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