Issue 30: Linda Anderson
All the doors in the house seemed to be open – Katherine Mansfield
And there they were, in her grandmother’s garden.
It was summer. The bees hummed in the rockery.
At any moment the black dog would walk past the dairy,
past the churns of milk already full, and flop down
beside her. Her mother was sitting with her grandmother
shelling peas. First one, then the other, sounded
louder then softer, nearer then faraway.
She was busy being multiple selves, making up
stories, until an uncle, slightly balding, squeezed up
beside her and asked if she knew the facts of life.
She blushed, feeling uncomfortable. He seemed pleased.
She went to where her father was sitting in the orchard
with his paints, dabbing at the leaves, letting the sky trickle
across the page. He noticed her and then he didn’t.
She tried to get back to where she was. Something
had changed. She could hear her aunt’s voice, hoarse,
her laughter crackling, then ending in a cough.
Rings sparkled on her hands as she turned and waved.
Why did the farmhouse windows open outwards? They were
obstacles she bumped up against. Was she inside
or outside? Small things seemed important.
They formed hollows where her memories were curled.
Time passed. There was no resolution.
They drove through the darkness to get home.
It began to seem so distant. Later her grandmother told them
the black dog was dead, shot by the farmer down the lane.
He’d been visiting a bitch, she said. We couldn’t stop him.
More time passed. The distance grew greater.
Death followed death. Then gently, after a lifetime of waiting,
she was able to enter the story again, everything alive, as a gift.
The Lady Vanishes
‘Nothing will happen next’
You won’t find it in a book:
how she leaps from the train, harum scarum,
nimble despite her years,
then disappears. The camera
doesn’t try to track her, beyond a sideways
glance into a hollow
but keeps on fussing in time with the train
that’s getting there, getting there,
the dénouement that will explain it all.
No memory exists of what’s not seen.
Moss touches her and it’s as close to her
as her own skin, as a bruise.
Oak leaves and beech leaves are littered
across paths that hush her motion
with mud and roots and rot.
Here aeons are gathered, leaning
against each other, the trees fiercely
guarding the light. There is no tense
but this one, meantime: its long
drawn-out note reverberating,
or its mellifluous variety welling up
from nowhere, from underneath.
We know she’ll come back to make
another brief appearance, then fade again
into the background. Don’t look at me,
she seems to say. I’ve planted the seeds
of a conundrum elsewhere: now wait.
Linda Anderson's first collection, The Station Before, was published by Pavilion Poetry in 2020 and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney first collection prize. Recent poems have been published in Poetry Review, Agenda and Poetry London. She has retired from Newcastle University where she was Professor of English, but she is still an advisor for The Newcastle Poetry Festival, which she founded, Chair of Bloodaxe Books, and an advisor for Poems on the Underground. She has published numerous critical books and essays including on autobiography, Elizabeth Bishop and contemporary poetry archives.
Copyright © 2023 by Linda Anderson, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author