for jean rhys
first, it was about pathways. polished
stones lining the narrow trail, horse
picking slowly upwards, woven shadows & light.
that gentle green shelf of meadow &
domestic trees lodged between sea and mountain.
what the house signified: making amnesiac space
amidst green indifference, grey slate,
red brick & the glint of sun on worked wood.
eyrie, origin of flights out to whatever
lies a wingspan beyond the wizard sea.
anything of europe would be grown over
sooner or later, only so much time
without endurance & submission & a trial:
blue eyes, fair skin, the long advantages.
she knew then it was not long about protection.
the eye was gathered in the funnel of the view:
hostile forests of memory channelling
to the smashed glass glitter
& small boats leaving to try something else.
in the cool hammock, in the dying afternoon
lost in the brief, tired quiet of the time,
she could dream out her nightmare,
sweet like the threat of moonlight on bare skin.
ahead, her unwilling reverse middle passage,
never being here. chosen & her resistance.
the house dying into rubble under eddoe plants.
she was old when she faced it. history.
surfaces sought above volcanoes
cannot be lived easy suffering
sets into lava barricades.
even tears cannot wear a single inlet.
she knew what agony memory would mean:
stripped, frail, trapped in her poverty,
wine to bear her past fear & find space
for remembering. but the spirits still
kept her long year by long year, weakening
refusal, for the last endurance.
it was to be about one hard pathway home:
words, to be cut carefully one by one
through weave and renewal, the cleverest
evasions, so she could earn her death.
they would take her beyond all human consolation.
it had to begin far from the beginning.
Copyright © Elaine Savory