Elizabeth Bartlett

Image by Caroline Forbes

Painting of a Bedroom with Cats

Elizabeth Bartlett

Painting of a Bedroom with Cats

Elizabeth Bartlett

Poem introduction

I have lived in this house for nearly fifty years and this is a description of the room in which I write my poetry and it's called 'Painting of a Bedroom with Cats'.

Painting of a Bedroom with Cats

Painting of a Bedroom with Cats

The curved cane chair has dented cushions, the cats
Catch spiders and craneflies on the wardrobe tops,
The guitar lies in its funereal case, the road is quiet,
The apple trees have dropped their fruit in the grass;
Lenin is alive and well and living in Brighton.

The pale watercolour of East Chiltington church
Is crooked on the wall, towels hang like limp flags
On the radiator, the typewriter lid is covered in dust,
The sunflowers are dying in the lime-green mug;
Virginia Woolf is alive and not well, and living in Rodmell.

The map of Sussex lies like a large whale among the dolphins
And the coats of arms in a curly formal freckled ocean,
Manuscripts lie like abandoned testaments on the table top,
The bright bedspread is folded neatly at the foot of the bed;
Caxton is alive and well, and living in Bruges.

The fluff stirs under the bed, and the drunks come home,
Singing under the ash tree growing near the iron gate
Which never shuts properly, frail Michaelmas daisies
Glow faintly, a late rose blooms, tattered and mildewed;
Hitler is alive and well and living in Notting Hill.

There is a crack in the ceiling, like the life line on a hand,
A green plant in a pot, but not a pot of basil,
Stands on the loosening tiles, warm empty clothes
Press against each other in the cupboard, like lovers;
Proust is alive and young and living in Combray.

Rain is coming in from the west, the garden is lush and damp,
The drought is over, and the day is at the eleventh hour,
Sleep is nearly here on fern-patterned pillowcases,
Books slither to the floor, cats are stretched on the quilt;
Gwen John is painting a lifetime of dying in a room like this.

from Two Women Dancing: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 1995), copyright © Elizabeth Bartlett 1995, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd


Elizabeth Bartlett

Elizabeth Bartlett Reading from her poems

1My Five Gentleman

2Painting of a Bedroom with Cats


4Disposing of Ashes

5The Visitors

6999 Call

7Charlotte, Her Book

8Stretch Marks

9To Tracy with Love

10Egg Tempera

11Art Class

12Entering Language

13Themes for Women

14The Limbo Line

15Notes for a Thesis on the Thirties

16The Winter Gardens

17North Terminal

18The Harrods of Porth

19Deutschmarks and Lemon Trees

20Legends and Realities


22The Winter's Tale



25The Lace Maker

26The Beautiful Knees of the Visiting Lay Preacher



29The Geldings


Books by Elizabeth Bartlett