Julia, you were topaz,
a jewel of warmth and splendour;
through which we saw each other,
unobscured, immeasurably enriched
by your presence.
Julia you were a river,
uniting, never dividing,
buoying up and carrying others along
with the currents of your strength and enthusiasm.
Your energy moving on ceaselessly,
laughter deep and sparkling.
Julia you are a star.
There still. Dazzling,
though purportedly gone.
You guide our course,
we steer by your light.
We bless and thank you,
Formed like a Christmas tree bauble without a hanging thread.
A leathery shell holding red jewels secreted in bitter yellow wombs,
waiting to be teased out with a sterilised pin.
A winter treat, a seasonal fruit like peaches in summer.
As children we sat on the rug before the fire,
the moving flames lighting up each perfect ruby orb.
The slow extraction, the tantalising taste, a hint on the tongue,
and then the crunch of seed, working the pin, splashing of juice,
bursting the gems, then frustrated mouths digging deep into the fruit,
the bitter taste of membranes.
Our Saturday evening treasure, a protracted savouring.
We, quiet by the hearth, curtains closed against the night,
firelight flickering round the room, silvering mother’s knitting needles,
as she clicked her purl and plain message.
Ticking clock and whirring quarter hour chimes.
A time held secure, warmly recollected,
before death claimed you both and left me orphaned
Now I eat pomegranates in summer and peaches in winter.
This poem was inspired by one of Julia’s workshops held in the Town Hall in Bishop Auckland. Julia was both inspiring and warmly encouraging. Her humour always shone through.
I joined Julia’s screen printing class
in Southwick, Sunderland.
I can’t remember the year.
Nor did I know her as a writer…
In time one of her daughters would say
‘We’ll always have your words.’
The photograph I’d brought to screen print
was my mother.
I wanted to re-create
that single girl of nineteen
in layers of sepia like a cameo.
I know her image so well…
She’s in profile.
Her abundant, brown wavy hair,
crosses her brow and is held in place
with a tortoiseshell star
embedded with brilliants.
A generous curl, swirls
towards her face,
and turns back on itself.
She has a neat Roman nose unlike mine;
but maybe my green eyes mirrored hers.
It was good to begin drawing.
But on reaching her tapering hair
I found it coiled into a bun.
The discovery was warm.
But she’s not just a photograph
and a warm shadow.
She left behind some verses;
words that spoke her mind.
Like many another I benefitted from Julia’s various Creative Writing Classes. But it was in 1997 that I was very grateful to Julia Darling and Ellen Phethean of course, when, along with June Portlock, they published the both of us and we became the first pair in the Diamond Twig’s series of Branch Lines.
Sometimes it’s the odd thing a person says that comes to the fore: I remember meeting Julia on the stairs at the Tyneside Cinema and saying we were going to see the film of Eugene Onegin ‘Oh, One Gin’ she said.
And her writing is so direct; especially in Apology for Absence. Need I say more?