The poem below was a runner-up in the Exeter Poetry Prize 1998 and later published in Making Worlds: One Hundred Contemporary Women Poets, Wirral: Headland, 2003. (ed. Myra Schneider, Dilys Wood & Gladys Mary Coles). It also appears in Tessitura (Shearsman).
I wrote the poem after my grandmother told me stories about her siblings and their Victorian rural childhoods spent in Devon.
1894: Fran Skating on the Manor Pond
She skates over and around its frozen surface,
then spins a pencil-pirouette,
muffs blue-heat her hands
and from her waist a scarlet whirl of skirt.
In hazy light veins seem to break in olive eyes
as the blades of her boots refract the scratching ice
and under setting sun
her shadow is half a pulsating heart.
Ida, in the kitchen sits and snips
the corners of the paper folds.
Brittle like ice.
Deft, her fingers snip and snap then
rippling like a fan the row of skating dolls
holding hand by hand.
Robert, in the other room
turns a page.
His book about the Ministry
is a weight upon his mind.
His sisters are making their mark;
each enacts a secret lore
on a slated sheet of white,
figure skating on the land of open-space
and inscribing a serrated pictograph.
Even the tiny feet of each minute dancing doll
are chipped away to equip them with the sharpest razor cut.