They spewed you out of the boat -
An inconvenient Noah, left to mouth forgiveness into the sand.
When your fish-flesh started to harden
They clothed you in a sail and left.
So much depends on pity.
No-one claimed you, not even the tide.
I wished you away, troubled by the
Animation of your hair in the wind
And the pointing of your left hand.
By the second day you would ruin this view forever.
My joints ached at the thought of you -
Feet, clod-swollen and blue -
Fingers, calcified and crabbed around
The grey goose feather that tried
To write you into myth.
When the arguments were finally over
You were dragged to higher ground
And buried under a pile of stones.
Some nights, when your cries pierce my sleep,
I sit by your side and sing lullabies,
Not out of kindness, but as penance.
The collection is inspired by the courageous, unconventional, pioneering and indomitable spirits of some remarkable Restoration and 18th century women. The poems give a voice to women who are all but lost to the modern consciousness and were indeed often silenced and vilified in their own time.
Witness is one of a series of four poems that were inspired by the extraordinary life of Mary Robinson. Mrs. Robinson, or Perdita as she became known, was an 18th century actress, poet and celebrity figure, famous for playing Shakespearean heroines on the London stage and also for her very public affair with the young Prince of Wales, later King George IV.
After retiring to Brighton at the age of 26, following a mystery illness which left her partially paralysed, Mary dedicated her life to writing, producing many highly esteemed poems, novels, plays and feminist treatises. It was whilst convalescing with her daughter in Brighton that Mary witnessed from her window an incident which made a lasting impression on her.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
Witness © 2015 Lisa Rodgers: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.