Delusions of the Retina

Delusions of the Retina

Two poems by English poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, biographer and translator Elaine Feinstein under World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen 

Delusions of the Retina

In winter I can invent a double-decker bus
        out of a red lorry and two lit windows   
or walking in rain, see car headlights
            grow insectivorous feelers  

   tangled leads to the computer trick me 
            into thinking I have found my reading glasses

 but today Spring with wet feet and a muddy skirt
              touched the street magnolia into blossom
and the earth dreams with me as I blink in March sunshine 
           to welcome another year into my garden.

The Clinic, Memory

Is that my mother now behind the glass ? She looks  
           as if she had foolishly chosen me for her nurse
— a girl always lost in songs and stories — and now wonders
          if I can be trusted to count my pills, remember 
to check blood sugar, or put lancets in a sharps box.
Is she reproaching me, or urging me on? I know 
          mine was to be the life she never lived, 
 the one she dreamed of as a gentle girl,
          a rich man’s daughter in an office job,
with clever brothers at University. She never dared

to flout her crabby father as her sister did.
            My father loved her smile, 
 she loved his working class ebullience 
            but they married late,
And I was their only child. Mother, 
in stocky middle age, you explained unhappily         
            (I wanted a brother)   
how Rhesus negative blood made you miscarry,
           and later babies died and left you ill —
there could be no other children after me. 

I came to reject your shyness and delicacy:
                   so slender-wristed, slim fingered
all your shoes size three, not seeing the stamina 
              you needed to live alongside
  my father’s euphoric generosity, his drama

 of disaster and resilience and his good humour 
                and indulgence stole my love
  while you read School reports, met teachers, dabbed 
           my chicken pox at night, knowing 
  it was always to him I gave my adoration.  
Your influence was subtle. When Cambridge let me in
         against the odds, I was a Midlands
Grammar School girl with a little talent, no self-discipline, 
           given to dancing with American servicemen
and lacking the Compton family’s common sense,

   I did not emulate my uncles’ lives, spent dutifully 
                   serving public good.
 Their pleasure: clubs: fine meals, and clever friends.
               Mother, forgive me, I did all I could.
  They won position. I found poetry.

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