This is my 100th blog piece, and I am delighted I can celebrate this century by introducing you to the work of Hiliary Elfick. We first met many years ago at the wonderful Almassera Vella in Relleu, Spain and have exchanged poems there several times since.
Hilary is an experienced broadcaster and the author of a novel and over a dozen poetry collections and pamphlets. She has performed her work in cathedrals, theatres, bookshops, libraries, schools and literary festivals in many countries, including Africa. Two of her poetry books have been translated into Romanian.
Hilary lives in East Anglia and also in New Zealand (where she is a bush bird guide), and is a frequent visitor to Australia where she recently launched two poetry sequences in collaboration with an international prize-winning Australian photographer, with a third appearing in early 2020. She has a lifelong love of being out in boats on the water.
Three poems are from Hilary’s THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS, published by Grey Hen Press (2019), while The Wedding Ring is from her earlier book THE OUTSHIFT PLACES, also with Grey Hen Press.
The Wedding Ring
But the morning before the wedding his father died. Two events
he’d long anticipated and with equal fervour. He would have
ignored the former, but Gilly persuaded him that even a minor
gesture to the event at their own reception might be at least seemly
and, more, something that much later he might be glad that he had
done. ‘I won’t pretend’ he said. ‘I won’t do platitudes.’
His mother came as planned. Under her wide hat her face
impossible to read, as it had been for many years. His sister
hugged him, saying nothing. Only when Gilly’s ring slid on his
finger did something jolt inside him. A ring finger. A ring. His
father ‘d always worn his. Even after everything.
When you know exactly where you were at the time
i.m. Professor Donald Nicholl
Six foot six he was but never towered.
Your first week. A small lecture theatre,
a wisp of Sobranie from the row in front.
He comes in, begins to speak
then nothing but his voice
and what he says and how he says it.
Sixty years ago. You’re at his feet:
whatever subject this man teaches
whatever he’ll demand
you’ll do it. You’ll be there.
Your first tutorial he asks how Christ came into Britain.
Someone tells him what happened, names, dates, places.
He turns to you and waits. You wait too. Then you tell him:
One man told another.
They put down their nets and followed.
Days later his wife has their fifth, last baby;
he names her after you.
Forty years on when he’s dying you remind him
Socrates said there’s no greater love
than between a teacher and his natural pupil.
Wonderful he whispers.
A Grandmaster sees four moves ahead.
As child, I anticipate the trigger
for a new rage in my mother.
As mother I wake startled
by a cry or too-deep silence,
deep water, roaring roads.
As wife I place your glasses, shoes,
just where your eye might fall,
forgiving the questions I answered
Never Totally Lucid
‘The reality of nature …obeys laws…never totally lucid to
our understanding.’ Anni Albers
When is he coming?
Is that what you wanted?
No. You gave me that yesterday.
I can’t have.
You did. Look. Here in my bag.
Did he come yesterday?
No. He’s coming today.
I’m not ready.
You have till five. You have time.
Why is he coming? Is it cold in here?
Your skin smells different.
I can’t find it.
You put it in your pocket
I only have this in my pocket.
That’s the one we’re talking about.
Who wrote this?
I did. You asked me to.
Why do I need it now?
You don’t. It’s for tomorrow.
Did I agree to this?
You make me so angry, you don’t listen to me, you just go ahead.
It was your idea.
What was my idea? When was it my idea?
Yesterday. That’s why he’s coming today.
I don’t know a James.
Look. Here’s his name. Your handwriting.
Did he come?
No. He’s coming today at five.