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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