Poetry Journal

Issues / Volume 5 Issue 2 , November 2015


To Radclyffe Hall

David Tribe

  I look into your well of loneliness
  to see you thrashing out to stay
  alive. Your body, fine-boned, angular,
  flat-chested, in tailored suit and tie
  contemptuous of feminine mystique,
  looks otherwordly through refraction
  in the cold congealing water.
  Above it your strong head
  tosses defiance at a callous world
  that looks down on your suffering
  with arms extended in abhorrence
  not in help. Where are your 
  friends, I ask, with ropes
  to toss to you or other
  means of rescue that I lack?
  How can you be alone, full
  of compassion, sense and mellow
  words to hold true friends, 
  rich and sophisticated to attract
  acquaintances?... I see. The world
  felt nervous with a woman born
  into a study, not a kitchen
  or a nursery; making no marriage
  vows, yet not a spinster; living
  with one who couldn’t be
  a wife. Where is she now? –
  in fact, forgotten more than you;
  in fiction, thrust into the sun
  to find a man and earn stiff
  nods from hard humanity.
  Some of your friends and fellow-
  sufferers climbed after her while
  others sank below the surface,
  drowned in despair or drink. Maybe
  some knew a secret happiness.
  Now only you survive
  in memory, explorer-missionary,
  sinner-saint, too proud to die.