Poems to share

Ode

You began as my enemy:
slowing my steps,
shaking my left arm
and leg, scaring me
with what you’d do next.

I once banished a burglar
by rushing downstairs
shrieking like a Maenad.
But we were locked together
in a wobbly dance.

The more frantic I got,
the more I juddered
like a wind-up doll
or jiggling puppet.
We got on best

when I took the lead:
moving my body
with sudden speed,
exaggerated slowness,
or intentional force.

The same with my mind:
free to roam, it raced
towards catastrophe.
I had to retrain it
to see you as a friend.

You were in me for years
but waited to show
until my mind and body
were in danger of settling
into old age stupor.

You jolted me awake:
challenging me to live
every minute left to me,
to burst into flower
like a desert cactus.

© Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver stole a copy of Blake’s poems from her parents’ bookshelf as a child and, reading it in bed by torchlight, developed a secret ambition to become a poet. Much of that early encounter went into 'I Want! I Want!' – the title is from Blake’s engraving, showing a child clambering towards the moon on a ladder, and speaks to Feaver’s themes of female ambition and desire. The sections of the book are separated by ladder motifs; Feaver describes testing her editor’s patience by insisting ‘they were drawn with just the right degree of wobbliness’.

A new collection from Feaver is a rare event; 'I Want! I Want!' is only her fourth in forty years. A poem from her 1993 collection 'The Handless Maiden' won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She is an Emeritus Professor at University College, Chichester.