Monday, 6 February 2012

The Wind from the Sierra

In the twilight of the ward

the old girl pulls me to her side

and whispers in the tight shell of my ear

Her voice - dancing on a roaring tide -

surfs sixty years of life with West Coast ease

I let down my hair, she says, in the Spanish War -

after the lice, the blood, the mucus-mud

of that first Conflagration women

cut their hair: all tight bobs and snaky curls

Not me. I treasured my locks. Daytime

on the ward I wore them tightly bound,

moulded to my head, like a Roman helmet

At night I brushed them out, tress by golden tress -

a miserly Rapunzel alone in my room.

Of course, since the Spanish prelude

we’ve had our own wars – not so much

the innocence of face to face

but cities raped, skies riven, fire storms:

nothing like the cloth-capped anarchy

the fluttering posters pitted innocently

against the tyranny of flying steel

And now the young pay world-rates for

learned argument for empty justification

- those comfort-men in suits -

as hearts are ripped out of men and cities

and the price of planes, hidden bombs and gas

is paid in flesh and pain

administered by medallioned clerks.

In the twilight of the ward

the voice in my ear is now a fading tide

I smell salt and iodine, Dettol and rotting fish.

My hair fell loose in Spain, she murmurs

And lifted in the warm wind of the Sierra.


NB I found this poem (written 1996 ) when I was sorting files on my hard disk.

I think I must have written it while I was researching my novel which begins in the Spanish Civil War My Dark-eyed Girl


  1. This is a true treasure Wendy. A whole life lives in this poem, as it roams around a century - the emancipation of women, the wars - and it strikes a contmeporary chord too - huge breadth and beautiful imagery. What other treasures are lurking on your hard disk? More please

  2. The first lines are magic Wendy - that 'come here and listen to my story' moment. Like Avril, I'd like to see what else is lurking in your journal!

  3. Thank you for 'getting', it Avril & Kathy. I had forgotten I had wrtten it and read it with a jolt, all the feeling of that time flooding back. There should be some more.wx



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