"1952": a poem by Wendy Cope

Sometimes, instead of a farthing,
they give you safety pins.
Can that be right? I’m sure
it’s what the teacher said.
 
I know it was 1952
because the same teacher, a nun,
announced one morning
that the King had died.
 
We were encouraged to go
to the chapel, to pray for his soul.
A Catholic friend showed me
what you do with the holy water.
 
It was lovely in there –
white, gold, pastels –
as pretty as the scenery
for the last act of a pantomime.
 
It may have been the same day
that I upset my mother
by asking for a rosary.
Soon after that,
 
as we sat down in a theatre,
where I couldn’t make a fuss,
she told me it had been decided:
boarding school, next term.
 
Wendy Cope is an award-winning poet whose collections include Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Family Values. In 2011 the British Library acquired her archive of 40,000 emails and 15 boxes of notebooks, diaries, letters and memorabilia. 

This article first appeared in the 08 January 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The God Gap

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On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

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