If you read this poem, write to me.
I had grieved, I had wept for a night and a day,
A gaunt nun in the mirror, touching herself, I learnt that
I liked you better the way you were.
(Does that come as a surprise?)
In restaurants we argued,
My shoulders falling down like teardrops.
You might have killed me with your hatefulness;
With your bitter, twisted lies.
(Did you want to see me broken?)
But finally there came the night
I looked into your blank eyes
And I knew. I knew by the sly light,
You were going away from me, dwindling.
(Why were you beset by gloom?)
Then you were gone. Then you were legend, language:
Lugging your fretful love, pathetic and hollow.
I grieved. I wept for a night and a day –
Weakened by my soulful cries.
(Didn’t I take it awful hard?)
I always believed this – “Still I’ll rise.”
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
In which at last the door fell open.
“I am going to have it”, I said.
(Does my sassiness upset you?)
And I greeted him, and asked him into the house.
My unfastened blouse gathered around, he took my mouth.
Holding each other’s splendoured things.
Pumping in the living room at the meeting of my thighs.
(Does my sexiness upset you?)
When I rose out of my sheets, his lower lip
Returned from my breasts – I howled, shrieked, clawed,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide –
Crystal swamps and the death…
(Does it come as a surprise?)
It’s then on waking I rise up glowing –
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear,
In a shawl of fine air, healed, able.
(Did you want to see me broken?)
You may write me down in history –
Croaking your cuckold name, disinherited, out of your time –
But if you read this poem, write to me:
You’ll see what our love might have done, had we loved in time.
(Does my haughtiness offend you? Does it come as a surprise?)
This is a patchwork poem, using lines from the following poems:
This poem was produced as part of Patchwork Thursday – click here to see what other poets have done with the same source material.
The idea is to use whole lines from other people’s poems, aiming to change as little as possible, though it’s OK to change persons and tenses and conjunctions if necessary (I’ve done this a lot in this poem – I’ve also stuck some short lines together because four-line verses looked much better on the page).
I loved reading the poems that people suggested – such a strong voice in them! I was struck by the idea of sleeping with someone else after another relationship ends that comes through in the Carol Ann Duffy poem – which seemed to be echoed by some fantastic images of grief, recovery, vitality and sexiness in the other poems. And slowly it all came together – the questions in the Maya Angelou poem seeming to give a natural shape to the poem. It was quite tricky incorporating lines from poems where the line breaks fell in strange places in the sentences, but it was very satisfying when I managed to find two lines from different poems that fitted together!
It’s interesting that, as with the last patchwork poem I wrote, it’s pastly my story and partly not. The description of the fighting in restaurants and the delight in the strength of the recovery are very much mine. As, I must admit, is the feeling of wanting an ex to contact you, not because you want them back, (as they might think, and as it sounds at the beginning of the poem) but so that you can show them how vibrantly you have recovered, and how wrong they were about you.
But I’ve not used sex as a path to recovery – the sex came in because I loved the lines and enjoyed putting them together in this way. And I’m nothing like as bitter as the mood of the last verse suggests – none of the poems had lines that quite allowed me to express my real thoughts about my ex, but there were some great lines that I decided I’d use instead even if they gave it a much angrier ending.
The title, of course, reflects the Lazarus story in Carol Ann Duffy’s poem – but here it’s the woman who returns to life.