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March 01st 2010 print

Sheryl Persson

Beyond

Death, I think, was always very near the surface of Virginia’s mind …

—Leonard Woolf

The two of you living at Monk’s House

in the village of Rodmell, weekends, holidays

and when the bombs blitzed London

shattered the fragile shell of your home

then dog fights, in the air above you here

a battle for more than Britain

On the threshold, uneasy ghosts

Vita and Vanessa, Maynard, Lytton,

TS with his wasteland  

they all came here, suitcases packed

with intellect, mania and doubt  

too much for one small cottage 

Outside, sunshine greens the ordered garden

herbaceous borders much as they were

three weeks it took to find you

before he could scatter the ashes

of what was left

under the elm, just beyond the pond

Now your face and his, carved in relief

plaques set into a low flint wall

and a quotation which he chose

from The Waves

two pairs of eyes gaze past me

fixed resolutely on some distant point

At the end of the garden your writing lodge

overlapping white, weathered boards

and inside, behind protective glass

the desk set square and solid

blotter dry now, pen idle and your glasses

laid aside, just so

A room of one’s own

but some inner tyrant ordered perfection

worked you eighteen hours a day

euphoria eclipsed by disillusion

air thick with thoughts

heavier than the stones in your pockets

Next door, in the churchyard

the silence of eight hundred years

a scatter of tombstones

names effaced by spreading lichen blooms

and in the breeze leaves shiver, filter my view

across the water meadow, to that river

not so deep any more