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Poem: Old Lady on the Cliff

Books & Poetry

The chalk cliffs coastline of England’s South Downs is the setting for this week’s Poet’s Corner contribution from Pat Lee of Adelaide.

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Old Lady on the Cliff

East Sussex coastline, England

For all her years her home, a small cottage on the cliff top.
She knew the songs of summer’s waves,
and watched the mists of autumn settle and slide.
Above the wail and whistle of winter wind,
she read the seagulls’ cries,
and when the world was brightly snowed and cold
she welcomed the soft, still silence.
In the valley her sanguine village grew into a town.
Age took those she held dear.

Alone, in the town she struggled on to the bus,
multiple cardigans pulled over her satin night gown,
old lace hanging from its hem.
Her face was hidden, for she was bent forward
and could only see the ground.
Hunched on a seat her fluttering fingers
tried to tame a troubling wisp of hair.
Alone, she struggled to get off at the cliff top.
Here, the wind welcomed her.

Now, bent over almost like the curve of a ball,
her rounded back to the wind, she stood resigned and tired,
as if waiting to be blown like a thistle seed
or gently carried along the cliff path to home.
She heaved a sigh and wearied into the dimming light.

The wind picked up.

Pat Lee, following retirement from teaching in 2011, turned to her poems and other “drafts of a lifetime” that she had kept in an old munitions box. With that work, she joined Friendly Street Poets in 2012, and was first published in its annual Reader the next year. Her poems have subsequently appeared in further Friendly Street Readers and other publications both here and in New Zealand. With Parkinson’s disease, Lee was a 2014 Recipient of an Arts SA Richard Llewellyn Arts & Disability Emerging Artist Grant. Her first collection, Nudge the Morning, was published last year, and today’s poem is one of those from her munitions box drafts.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to poetscorner@solsticemedia.com.au. Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.

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