This week another of Stevie Smith’s highly original poems, in which she masks a serious intent by adopting the persona of a garrulous and slightly nutty aunt. It is like a conjuror’s distraction technique, but watch carefully and don’t be fooled. (‘Are you Mrs. Briggs, dear?’/No, I am Scorpion.) And scorpions carry a sting in the tail…
‘This night shall thy soul be required of thee’
My Soul is never required of me
It always has to be somebody else of course
Will my soul be required of me tonight perhaps?
(I often wonder what it will be like
To have one’s soul required of one
But all I can think of is the Out-Patients’ Department –
‘Are you Mrs. Briggs, dear?’
No, I am Scorpion.)
I should like my soul to be required of me, so as
To waft over grass till it comes to the blue sea
I am very fond of grass, I always have been, but there must
Be no cow, person or house to be seen.
Sea and grass must be quite empty
Other souls can find somewhere else.
O Lord God please come
And require the soul of thy Scorpion
Scorpion so wishes to be gone.