A Letter to Julia from 2015 – Cynthia Fuller

You won’t be at all surprised to hear
that the Percy Building’s second floor
has resumed its serious demeanour.
All the fun you brought with the comfy sofa,
your afternoon sleeps and crazy knitting,
fruit and cake and noisy laughter,
was painted over
with institutional magnolia.

And there aren’t so many lurking now
outside buildings, out of the wind,
smoking roll ups and having lively chats –
though they’re still rebelling, your kindred spirits,
still naughty girls behind the bike sheds.

But I think you might be surprised to hear
you have a starring role in a PhD –
you and your faith in the power of poetry,
you and your ‘own sweet tasting words’.
You’re sharing the spot with Stevie Smith.
I think you’d like that.
I can see the two of you chatting over tea.
I can see you cheering her up.

 

Julia’s positive approach to life, her warmth and enthusiasm inspired me. Her refusal to conform and her ability to be herself whatever the situation and whoever she was speaking to were also inspirational to me.

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The Poem She Didn’t Write – Asit Maitra

Doctors had their say.
And the relatives and friends.
Now it’s my turn, and I shout
‘I’m free; I know the deadline’.

I’ll still do my daily tasks,
At least as much as my body can:
A bit of hoovering, cleaning,
Go to the shops choosing
The juicy tomatoes and a fresh
Cut of lamb, you push the trolley,
No hurry, no fuss. Then later slowly cook
The curry dish you love so much.

‘Let’s see the world, USA, Canada, Far East,’
We look at holiday brochures. My eyes
Light up but you say, ‘Better not take a chance,
Not go too far away. In case they don’t have
Facilities like us.’ I smile.
‘Get ready for work. You don’t want to be late.’
You depart fighting for words.

I’m light as a feather, a puff of air
That’s appeared from nowhere, nudges
The top leaves of our apple tree and say,
‘Let’s play.’
I’m a cloud, that flaky, white one
High up in the sky, silent and weightless
But chatting away with the sun.

I could be anything now that
The whole world has spoken.
It doesn’t matter what cure the scientists
Might discover in years to come.
But nobody really knows how free
We can be when we are told
‘Your journey’s only so many miles to go.’

 

I still remember that Saturday morning workshop (MA Creative Writing).
Julia was fluent and inspirational; her eyes glowing as if to defy the shroud that’s coming closer and closer.
My emotional connection with Julia was that my wife also died from cancer at the age of 52.
She wasn’t a poet but a nurse.

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Among the Feathers and Pigeon Shit

 
you will find a love
that hovers

on the edge of air.
A ritual

familiar
as a young man’s

one night stand;
no regrets.

A strutting walk
and cocky movement

of head
before winging away.

 

 
A fond memory – Jeanne Macdonald

I remember sitting in the bar with Julia and others to choose the title for an anthology to be published by those taking the first MA Writing Poetry. There were eleven of us – hence the title – First Eleven. Her shared enthusiasm and sense of humour an inspiration to us all.

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