Patricia McCarthy, editor of Agenda, won the National Poetry Competition 2013. Her latest collections: Rodin’s Shadow (Clutag Press/Agenda Editions), Horses Between Our Legs (2014). She lives in Mayfield, East Sussex.
Virginia Woolf’s Angels 1919
‘Whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance
of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her.
She died hard.’
Virginia Woolf of ‘The Angel in the House’ by Coventry Patmore
Five years after their rescue
Of troops beaten back in Mons,
She danced with them on the downs,
Their forms like kites she reeled in
With clouds, their haloes askew
On waves of green escarpments
Breaking into the sea. Beech-brown
The combes she looked down upon
While the angels held up her skirts,
Rode the rhythms of her walking feet –
Their wings no longer torn.
In a host they balanced, on the alert
For ancient armies in retreat
Squatting in hunched hawthorns.
One year after the armistice
In the steep slopes of her temperament
She kept them at her side, to banish
The simpering angels of the house
At whom, with the sedge, they would hiss.
Whenever an alien shadow bent
Over her page as she wrote, a swish
Of wings dipped in ink would douse
Its creeping insistence, despatch it
Into tumuli turfed over, into dew ponds.
The angels of Mons were her guides
Through plankton, fossils, flint; could fit
Into her psyche’s darkest corners beyond
Precipices chalked in over sucking tides.
[‘Angels, 1919’ is in Horses Between Our Legs (Agenda Editions, 2014). It also was poem of the week in The Guardian online, edited by Carol Rumens.]
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