Songs of a Quiet Woman

Songs of a Quiet Woman

lurching delicate as a snow queen down this street of greys
unfocussed exactly enough to miss the businessmen
goggling at my stocking deciding
(as I twitch primly into the tram seat my handbag
nestled on my lap like a puppy) deciding
this will be a day of minor survivals:
etching a bloody mouth in fluorescent mirrors
or idly lacquering a hand of claws:
small weapons for a small war


there is one streetlight which always
blinks off whenever I walk near it
coming home late and secretarial
to the hint of cats and cooking -
silently inside me something flexes
something unsurprised


men of course lately they are kind to me
although an acid starting in my sweat
erodes me like an argument:
snatched by hesitation in a shop
eloquent and secret with the smell of him
I feel sureness swelling like a bruise
forcing blood into lips breathless and reverent
this pearl in the corruption of my belief


(yes please no trouble thankyou mother
it's been a pleasure because I do not know
how to be angry or ugly mother -
granny addled with sherry under bombs
in Winchester never raised her voice
or said a word back to your father
no matter what woman or what insults:
her eighty year old skin is white and powdered
and now she pisses in the basin mother
and I know the proper way to lay tables)


to other things I turn the eye of god.
the tv's gorgon eye has glazed me over
and nothing touches me at all:
not famine fire fear or revolution.
only a shellshocked child in Beirut
firmly stroked to stillness by a nun.
he stared at her with eyes as black as hunger.
I wept then for the simple magic of hands


the routine of coffee the complicity
of cigarettes and gossip
this gentle leaning over narrow tables
into the sly glass of recognition:
I know I am dishonest in my dress
(she says to me) I know I am dishonest
but all I ever knew was how to lie

from The Common Flesh: Poems 1980-2002 (Arc Publications, 2003), copyright © Alison Croggon 2003, used by permission of the author.


Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon Reading from her poems

1from Domestic Art (1990)

2from Howl: 2,3

3Seduction Poem

4Emily Bronte

5Billie Holiday

6The Edgeless Page

7Songs of a Quiet Woman


9Two Sonnets

10The Elwood Organic Fruit and Vegetable Shop



13from Divinations



16A Unicorn

17Chekhov in Sakhalin



Books by Alison Croggon