Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Muse of Rose Street

Yesterday I listened to the BBC Radio 4 documentary on the tragic life of Stella Cartwright, the Muse of the Rose Street Poets. I felt very sad. Especially as it was discovered after her death that she had written poetry herself. It left me wondering what would have happened had the Rose Street poets included in their ranks some strong, older women writers, who might have provided a different model for her to follow.
When I wrote the poem below, I struggled for some time with the last few lines. Should it be the 'I' of the poem, or the 'you' who becomes the 'half-remembered name'? Eventually I settled on empowering the 'I'. Unfortunately Stella, a victim of the culture of the time, never achieved that empowerment.

Queen Maeve challenges the Men of Ireland

I am a fast red car
and will drive you to the edge
again and again

I am whisky on your ice –
I’ll never slake your thirst
but man, I’ll make your belly burn

I am a silver salmon
touch me with your tongue
taste the salt of my seven seas

I am a brothel window, all
lace and flesh and whispered fantasies

I am an apple tree –
after winter’s cold lie beneath my limbs –
when autumn frosts take hold
sink your teeth into my fruit’s firm skin

I am the rounded moon
I can make you rage and swell
or calm you like a child

I am a pale pink shell –
run your fingers round the ridges of my whorl
hold me to your ear, hear
my secret oceans crash and roar

but most of all I’m fire –
linger by my crackling flame
warm yourself as I burn low

for soon, too soon you’ll be no more
than a wisp of smoke, a smudge of ash
a half-remembered name

from Wild Women of a Certain Age

1 comment:

Hugh McMillan said...

She seems to have been a tragic figure, right enough. I've never read any of her own work but she inspired plenty of writing, some of it pretty distasteful. Didn't Stanley Roger Green say "an orgasm with Miss Cartwright was metaphysicaL"? Not much of an epitaph for a talented woman.


She counts murdered women. Not women  wiped out in warzones by bullets and bombs,  nor the 63 million missing in India - ...