Week 473: Juliet, by Patricia Beer

This is an early poem by Patricia Beer (see also week 191), written in her first somewhat romantic and soft-focus style that is quite unlike her later much edgier work. I have never quite made up my mind about it. I do admire it for its imagery and musicality, but the trouble with poems that riff on someone else’s work or draw on the ‘myth kitty’ is that they can seem a bit secondhand and, paradoxically, rootless, so this may be one of those cases where I want to say to the poet ‘Yes, very nice, but why?’. So it is that personally I would rate the week 191 piece, ‘Bereavement’, as the better poem for seeming more urgent, more necessary: a lot of developing as a poet is about getting ever closer to your own experience and less reliant on that of others.


So come I into church again
My body straight as thunder rain,
My mouth grey as sirocco skies
My lids are newly fallen snow
And no March now will ever show
The tears that bloom inside my eys

Before the swift world turned to me,
Before the green plain like a sea
Shouldering Verona wall
Pushed the stones and lizards down
Unpicked the cobbles of the town
I never touched the world at all.

Now high in church my father stands
And takes my father by the hands.
The living peal into the sun
United as a chime of bells
But in the dark like scattered pearls
The matchless dead lie one by one.

Low on the bright mosaic floor
I who am Juliet no more
Have become Juliet at last,
Candlelit, unchangeable.
In this loud night the miracle
Of tomb and history go past.

Patricia Beer


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