Have you ever seen my extraordinary feet?
They are waders, descended from flippers.
My little toe is related to a prehistoric mollusc.
My legs are Gothic pillars, designed in Barnet
by Presbyterians, who sang Jerusalem.
These columns could support cathedrals.
My womb is a wartime nurse,
functional, regular, robust.
A womb that purses its lips.
My belly is the pillow that old ladies die on.
It's Victorian linen, the best in the high street.
It clasps my insides with invisible darns.
My breasts are Scottish, from a line of sepia aunts,
who wrapped their Bristols tightly in sealy cloths,
with nipples as distant as Iona.
Unfortunately my shoulders are related
to sorry uncles, they hunch and apologise,
sag and wait sadly for sympathetic arms.
But these fine ears are sisters of the sails
that carried cargo off the flat sea.
They are adventurous and foolhardy.
And this face, that berates me at the hairdresser
and winces in bar mirrors is mine.
I moulded it from ancestral clay.
All mine, with its thumb prints
and crevices. It's not finished.
You can have it when I'm done.
Julia Darling, who died on Wednesday 13th April 2005, founded and ran Diamond Twig with Ellen Phethean, who says:
Many of you will have followed her extraordinary journey on her web log: her cancer, its ups and downs, and her refusal to lead the life of an invalid, but to be active and creative every moment she had. Julia was never dying, she was always living until she slipped out to go to a different party.
She wrote poetry, fiction and plays for stage and radio. She also got involved in all kinds of projects, working with other artists and generally playing with words. She lived in Newcastle upon Tyne for the last twenty years, earning her living as a writer and sometimes teaching creative writing. She wrote in a room in the English School at the University of Newcastle, where she was an 'associate fellow' for the Royal Literary Fund. In 2003 she became the second winner of the Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award, the UK's most valuable literary prize.
Ancestry, chosen as May's Poem of the Month in memory of Julia, is one of her early poems, from the Poetry Virgins' collection, Sauce.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
© Julia Darling: used with permission.
Reproduced here by permission of the estate of Julia Darling; moral rights are asserted.
No part of it is to be reproduced, stored in any sort of retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission.
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This page last updated 9th May 2005