Running Away

Running Away
By Rosemary Tonks

In the green rags of the Bible I tore up

The straight silk of childhood on my head

I left the house, I fled

My mother’s brow where I had no ambition

But to stroke the writing

I raked in.

 

She who dressed in wintersilk my head

That month when there is baize on the high wall

Where the dew cloud presses its lustration,

And the thrush is but a brooch of rain

As the world flies softly in the wool of heaven.

 

I was a guest at my own youth; under

The lamp tossed by a moth for thirteen winters

Sentenced to cabbage and kisses

By She who crammed an Earth against my feet and

Pulled over me the bright rain

Storm of fleece.

 

Not for me – citizenship of the backdoor

Where even the poor wear wings; while on Sunday

Gamy ventilations raise their dilettante

In the bonnet of the satin-green dung fly,

And fungus sweats a livery of epaulettes.

 

I was a hunter whose animal

Is that dark hour when the hemisphere moves

In deep blue blaze of dews

And you, brunette of the birdmusic tree,

Stagger in spat diamonds

Drunkenly.

 

Like some Saint whose only blasphemy is a

Magnificent juice vein that plucks his groin

With April’s coarse magicianship as green

As the jade squirt of fruit, I was the child whose breast

Rocks to a muscle savage as Africa.

 

Thundercloud, your wool was rough with mud

As the coat of a wild beast on which flowers grow,

Your brogue of grunts so low

They left soil in the mouth. After you, I

Walked as through a Djinn’s brain

Gleaming lane.

 

I was incriminated by your hammer

In my chest. And forfeit to the crepe hoods

Of my mother’s eyes; the iron door of her oven

And her church. Skies, cut to blind, had but laid on

Her priest’s mouth the green scabs of winter.

But I had the marvellous infection!

Leaning upon my fairy and my dog

In the ultramarine

Latitudes of dew shook like a tear that’s carried

Through darkness on the knuckles of

A woman’s glove.

 

I saw each winter where my hen-thrush

Left her fork in famine’s white banqueting cloth;

Could I not read as well the tradesman’s hand

With its magenta creases – whose soul turns blandly

On a sirloin mattress to smile at the next meal?

 

O She who would paper her lamp with my wings!

That hour when all the Earth is drinking the

Blue drop of thunder; and in

Dark debris as of a magician’s room, my beast

A scented breathing

To the East.


About the author

(Excerpt from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/rosemary-tonks)

English poet Rosemary Tonks [1928 – 2014] was born in Gillingham, Kent. Her father, an engineer, died in Africa before Tonks’s birth and she was sent to boarding school as a young girl. In the late 1940s, Tonks married Michael Lightband, also an engineer. The couple lived in Calcutta, where Tonks had paratyphoid fever, and Karachi, where she contracted the polio that withered her right hand. Tonks taught herself to write and paint left-handed and wore a black glove on her right hand. After a stint in Paris, the couple returned to London in the mid-1950s and Tonks began mixing with literary society. During this period, Tonks wrote two books of highly acclaimed poetry, Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms (1963) and Iliad of Broken Sentences (1967). Tonks claimed affiliation with French poets such as Baudelaire and Rimbaud, and her poetry was edgy, metropolitan, and laced with acerbic wit. Critic Cyril Connolly noted then that “Miss Tonks’s hard-faceted yet musical poems have unexpected power,” and she was generally considered one of the best female poets of her generation. Tonks also wrote six novels, including Opium Fogs (1963) and The Halt During the Chase (1972), and reviewed widely.

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