The Henry Moore Foundation
on a hill
on the horizon,
a black silhouette
against evening’s nacreous sky,
ready to race;
the silence below
as you advance uphill,
he moves to rise
You see through
the carved spaces
to his core,
and she shines,
compelling you to circle,
Impassioned voice of Roman woman poet to be heard after 2,000 years
The Guardian, June 9th 2000
This poet regrets she is unable to have her full say,
This poet regrets that you only met her today, mmmmmmmm.
And she’s sorry to be delayed
but it was a dirty trick they played –
Sulpicia regrets the mistrust of yesterday.
Now it is recognised
these poems of love are hers, people;
those inhibited Oxford dons had led us astray:
far from being by Tibullus,
those sexy poems that are great by us, people,
are Sulpicia’s – a female Ovid, they now say.
But eight works are all
that have been retrieved to date, people,
from this pissed off poet –
toast of Rome in her day.
And the moment before she died
would she have lifted up her head and cried, laughing,
if she’d known she would have to say to us all,
Sulcicia sings after 2000 years delay.
* Miss Otis Regrets
Their son was getting married, would we come,
his father should be there?
Hack through 300 miles of snow
and a quarter of a century of hate?
Of course we’d go!
What were the odds of an accident? A car break-down?
The black and white day slid like a coffin
towards closed doors.
After the service, the family groups;
I edge towards the confetti-crowd –
unpaid extra, latent image –
the photographer’s nightmare.
Clockwork reception: seating plan, speeches,
the groom’s father introduces me now;
their set-smile silence loudhailers appraisal –
relatives, friends, bridesmaids, best man.
Radical feminism, smoke-free zones?
Tossed like the bride’s bouquet.
The menu is set: champagne with the first and main course;
coffee, tart of the day.
My first owner’s line is in your Queen,
Not much more of him to be seen
In this fair land that he fought bravely for,
Except me of course, though they can’t be sure
I belonged to him, and yet you can see me
In Oxfordshire under lock and key.
Only I know Alfred’s true history
So sit yourself down and listen to me.
You’ll no doubt remember he burnt some cakes?
Most of those stories are nothing but fakes.
Have you heard of Alfred’s daughters before?
The answer is ‘no’ of that I am sure.
Two were sold off to buy lands for the crown
(One ruled and fought, despite wearing a gown);
One was given to Christ – flesh, blood and bone,
Shaftesbury abbey – her permanent home:
No allusion to the deeds they have done
In our history books, nor their battles won.
The saga’s set when I was in my prime –
The Saxon era – such a troubled time.
And don’t be surprised if in the middle
Of someone’s tale you see the odd riddle.
I would entertain as well as restore
The truth to tales that have become folklore.