Elegant Sibyl

Elegant Sibyl

Having become an expert at false tones
as the voices slide lower or higher than intended
out of control, having heard so many lies
seen so many faces altering crazily
trying to hide their real motives,
having pondered the fate of those who came to consult her
and how little difference any words make,
her gaze is now withdrawn and watchful as a diplomat's.
Her lips, though still full, meet firmly in a straight hard line.

But her feathered cloak and tall head-dress of glorious plumage
are so elegant, no one can resist her.
The Emperor comes to hear her pronounce almost daily.
All the rich men's wives copy her style.

Alone at last, she strips off her regalia
lets the fine cloak drop to the floor
pushes strong fingers through the stubble of cropped hair
and climbs into the deep stone bath of water so cold
that even at the height of summer she shudders, and in winter
the effort of will the action demands
has become her greatest indulgence.

Only then is she able to think of the god and wait his pleasure.


from This Time of Year (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993), © Ruth Fainlight 1993, used by permission of the author

Recordings

Ruth Fainlight

Ruth Fainlight Reading from her Poems

1A Sibyl

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2Blocked Sibyl

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3Driving Northward

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4Trees

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5It Must

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6Animal Tamer

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7Passenger

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8Handbag

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9In Memoriam H.P.F.

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10As Though She Were a Sister

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11Death's Love-Bite

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12The Knot

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13On the Theme of Artifice

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14Poppies

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15Ovid among the Scythians

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16That Presence

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17A Mourner

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18Homage

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19Lineage

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20Late Low Sun

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21Thunder

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22Facts About the Sibyl

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23Elegant Sibyl

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24Friends' Photos

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25Young Men

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26Whatever

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27Autumn Crocus

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28What

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29Ordinary Sorrow

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30Potatoes

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31Feathers

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32Four Pheasants

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33La Traviata in 2001

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34Sheba & Solomon: I - Their Words

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35Sheba & Solomon: XI - Water

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36Sheba & Solomon: XII - Solomon's Desire

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37Moon Wheels

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38Blankets

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39Lovely Hands

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40Crocuses

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41Midland Contemporary

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Books by Ruth Fainlight