I long to love poetry. I want to be one of those people who devours poetry; who can remember it and quote lines of it. I want to have an endless of supply of carefully chosen lines of poems stored away, that drip from my tongue effortlessly at just the right poignant moment.
Sadly I am not that person. I like poetry. I buy books of poetry. I sometimes try to read those books of poetry and I have even been known to go to poetry readings. If I’m honest despite my endeavours I often just don’t understand it, or maybe I don’t have the patience to try to understand it.
However every now and again I come across a poem that speaks to me at just the right time. This is one such poem and one I keep coming back to. It is written as an encouragement to write. I love the boundless enthusiasm of it, the richness of the imagery. When I read this I can taste the sweetness of the bread and honey as it dribbles down my chin. I can feel the brightly coloured silk and taffeta of the party frocks and hear them crackle as I run them through my fingers. This is a poem I want to read.
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI SCRIBBLES A MEMO TO A YOUNG FRIEND
Don’t let your heart shrink to a dingy house
don’t starve your soul like a grey church mouse
on crusts and crumbs, all that your priest allows
leap out of bed, let greed for words begin
breakfast on bread and honey, butter spread thick as sin
let pleasure on the tongue release the angel within
drape your cat around your shoulders and stroke her till she’s purred
-the part of yourself that is brindled and furred
and can hiss, and pounce, and disembowel a bird
unclasp your hands from bibles and prayers
let your desire race you whistling up the stairs
over threadbare regrets and faded love affairs
inside the attic, where the future knocks
throw back the lid of your dressing-up box
put on the most sumptuous of all your party frocks
let your skirts flare out, gold petticoats bright
as a rage of seraphs, jostling tight
as a rustle of sunflowers that burn with light
be brave as these- sit down and write.
© Michèle Roberts
Christina Rossetti Scribbles A Memo To a Young Friend is by Michele Roberts. You can find more of her work here.