Renee

Renée’s poetry

The following poem was exhibited in the ‘Traditions’ Exhibition from 1-19 February 2017 at the Art Pavilion Gallery, Mile End. 

Delicious traditions

What does it mean to be Jewish?

Mixing cinnamon into the cake
Spicing up the sweetness
Eggs, oil, then bake.

Almonds added to anything
Beaten to a paste
Or stirred in dry from Sainsbury’s
Over mushed up apples
An acquired taste.

More apples, dipped in honey
To welcome a sweet new year
Boiled eggs laced with salt water, instead of shedding a tear
Matzo, flat, unleavened bread
No time to rise
In the dessert.
In my kitchen
It’s good with chopped liver

Salmon and cream cheese beigals. Not bagels. Not lox. This is London.

Not New York. Not Krakow.
Brick Lane buzzes in its melting pot of culture, religion, tradition.

Tradition begins at home.

Dinner together on Friday night
Kneidals bobbing happily
In piping soup
With shredded chicken and soft carrots
Not home grown – the squirrels ate them
They weren’t protected
Like our ancestors.

Mundlin – no one knows what they are
A mystery of old Russia
Before the war
Streams of lockshen
Or, if I forgot
Vermicelli from the Italian shop

The following collection of four poems was exhibited in September 2016 in: ‘100 Madonnas’ at the Crypt Gallery, Euston, London.

Four voices: my mother, my son, my soulmate, my soul

Accompanying brochure text:
2000 years ago, this family lived, loved and struggled just as we do today.  The minutiae of their lives is long-since lost – and irrelevant; the persistence of the overriding religious portrayal lays claim to what followed.  Yet while Mary is universally revered in the role in which she was cast, in her own time she was simply a young woman existing in a harsh reality; a daughter, a mother, a wife, sister, friend…  Her world was compact, insular; her familial relationships creating the boundaries of her existence. 

These were ordinary people with extraordinary legacies.  These words snapshot their world.

Mary, my Mary

Mary my love
Your energy beats me
into submission

I’m at your will

Your passion heats me
Flaming
Like the desert before us
Beyond us
Surrounding our small city

You promised yourself to me
For life
For ever
You gave me your word

Immaculate?
Conception?

Of this I’ve never heard

Mary
Oh Mary

Stay with me
Together we can conquer the world

I’m Mary, I’m me

My hair pulled back loosely from my hot skin
in this evening sun
A chignon, this will one day be
Now just a simple knot
with tendrils framing my face
One day filled with grace
One day ensconced in Wedgewood blue
A flowing gown and regal cloak
Revered
And recognised
the world over
Our lady, our mother.

But for now I’m just a simple girl
A child of Israel

I’m Mary, I’m me

Seeking shelter
Seeking rest
To lay
my heavy belly on a bed of hay.
I care not if I share my night
with a donkey, an ass, a brood of chickens.
I yearn only for a corner in an inn, a chair
by the fire
Even a stable
A roof, is all I need.

Pray let my child be born tonight
when the sun is set and the winds blow cool

Let my child be healthy, be bright
Be a beacon of hope
In these dark days

A blizzard is coming, the wise men say.
Wrap up, baton down
Don’t lose your way.

We have no way
We have no plan
My husband is a simple man
This town is harsh, the people shy
Fed up of us visitors passing by
Waiting only to pay our tax
Law abiding, hardworking, facing facts…

We’re trapped in an economic downturn
Future’s bleak, life’s a bitch.

Where’s our saviour – our guiding light?
The inspiration to lead us on.
The angel to inspire my unborn son.

Trust ourselves, that’s what they say
Trust ourselves and we’ll find a way
The answers lie within

Seek our inner guidance – yes,
trust myself…
There’s a guiding light within me.

That light that shines from within
will one day light the whole world.
One day
One day…

But tonight I’m just a girl
Tonight I’m Mary
Tonight I’m me

Mary, my child

They told me, “Anne, that child’s unusual, keep her on a tight leash.”

They urged me, “Anne, it’s no way for a Jewish girl to behave.”

But I watched you grow
into a beautiful woman
Divining angels
Calling on them as your friends

Gabriel. He’s a nice lad

Raising your son with the man you loved
Following him into the unknown
Turning your back on our traditions, our faith
Closing your eyes to the women of Israel
Rachel, Rebecca, Leah

Our past
is still your future
Whatever religion my grandson may choose
And you follow.
Or lead?

Guide.

You’ve cleansed your blood
And made peace with God
Watching your child turn water to wine
A stream of magic
Illusion

Sometimes I think that boy is out of his mind

You’d better keep a closer eye on him
Or you’ll be cradling his bones
Washing his cloth in tears

You’ll forever be my daughter
You’ll always be my lady

Mary, my mother

This beautiful woman
Her angelic smile
Soothing me to sleep
My short years as a child

This funny, smart, insightful maid
Smoothing the hay where my young head laid
Offering wisdom
Teaching me life
Encouraging positivity
Throughout the strife

Garnering trust
Raising hope
Keeping the family strong
And warm
While father worked

Chopping his wood
While she…
She chopped through life
Never beaten
Eschewing defeat
Pushing me forward
My destiny to meet

My mother
My life
The blueprint for my future wife

This woman is my hero
Her Jewish heritage grounding me
The seed is sown
My roots have taken, my branches spiralling forth
A determination to make this world my own

 

The following poem was exhibited in: ‘A New Home‘ at the Pavilion Whitechapel Gallery in Mile End, London, Feb 2016.

A new home

I came from there
I came to here
I left behind my home, my fear
My car, my job, my shattered dreams
I came in search of what it means
To rest a while without the pain
Of fighting, loss and, yet again,
Discovered peace and harmony
In a culture that’s accepting of me

I came from there
I came to here
I left amidst my family’s fear
I came to fight a better fight
To state my worth
To light the light
Of freedom, in the name of war
Across the city that I tore
To cleave through peace
Destroying trust
Displacing culture
Love into dust

What could have been

Today was a gift.

Your arrangements were cancelled.
My arrangements were cancelled.

No one expected us to be anywhere.

The gift remains wrapped, a mystery
Tied in a bow with a beautiful ribbon of unfulfilled dreams.

Cheese porn

You wined and dined me till I felt
There was room for nothing more
Then you poured me full of a Camembert melt
And laid me on the floor.

The hardness of your Pecorino
The creaminess of my Brie
Made Parmigiano seem quite tame
While milky Mozzarella seeped.

Rocking back and Roquefort
Bite your tangy Feta
Still (ton), it’s time to move on
From your onion-flavoured Cheddar.

Temptation of the young American:
Bubbling, sizzling Monteray Jack
Meltingly delicious and packed full of spice
But your wax coated Gouda was just as nice.

I probably shouldn’t

I probably shouldn’t be here
At 3am, outside your house
Gazing up at the darkened window
curtains that are not your taste

I probably shouldn’t ring you
Let her answer then hang up
Watching as the lamp turns on
imagining your sleepiness

I probably shouldn’t send that text
From an unknown number
linked to no address

I probably shouldn’t be creeping
Stealthily around the back
Checking the kitchen window
the key I stole turning in the lock

I probably shouldn’t have been here
With you, that time, when she was gone
Out of town for just one night
innocently off to visit someone

You probably should have watched me
As I slipped it gently into my bag
And swiped your photo from the fridge
Tearing her off, your arm dangling in space
I’ll replace it now
My sellotaped version with my own face

I probably shouldn’t leave it though
They’ll find it
Later
After I’ve climbed the stairs
Just to say hello

Pink shoes

This is what I want

Two hours alone with you
Somewhere dark
With candlelight
Sharing a bottle of red wine

You’d have one hand tangled in my hair
And the other in mine

Just talking quietly
Because I like the sound of your voice
I don’t mind where
It can be your choice

Maybe the place with purple velvet sofas
Where I wore pink shoes
And someone called me your girlfriend

Twenty years

It’s twenty years since you stroked my hair
Wrapped your arms around me
and held me there
Twenty years since you made me smile
Watching the sun rise over London, while
the world slept

It’s twenty years since you made me a picnic in the park
And we laughed at everything
as it came, clear
and stark
Shining like the roof of a black cab

Twenty years since you whispered
It would all be alright
Built me a castle
Then walked into the light

Twenty years is a long time
To be gone too soon
But on the moon
Twenty years is only twenty days
Still long to miss you
But easier to say

Oceans, what’s mine

Oceans, what’s mine
is yours
as you well know
As you wrap yourself around me, and
I around you

You smother me
and fill me
Till I cannot breathe
As you wash over me, in waves
of pleasure
and pain
into my lungs
into my heart

Oceans, what’s mine
is yours
forever

John Lennon

I’d love to have known you
……
John
………….the world’s friend
because that’s what you were all about
…………………
No doubt
……………you loved your people
……we loved you too
……………………….b
ut a fool’s a fool
to play his own game
…….make his rules
and if (by chance)
…………………..he shouldn’t win
.……(and hell should hold a seat for him)
……………………….it’s his own ruin
But not you! Why you?
……You played fair
……………It was all you asked
…………………(eternal peace)
for war to cease
…..and the world to love
You kept your secrets
……………….behind your mask
………….the face of a clown
…………………..letting it go
….in the words of a song
………………….but this song’s for you
John
….because you had the power
…………..to love them all
…………………(I can’t even love one)

Reading between the lines

If eloquence should not surpass
in hungry looks, a fleeting glance
A conquest of the hidden sins
where publishing ends and art begins

Keep it for posterity
you’re running wild your charms
Crush the critic’s bitterest pill
Display the rapture that you feel
and arrogantly cast aside
the trends you led when reality died

Captivate audiences with stories untrue
Told with passion where truths are few
A printer’s prerogative; make the old new
it all looks ok in landscape view

Follow the hedonist through the crowd
Cultivating tastes
Stroke the glamour of satirical rage
your life’s an open book
let me autograph a page
And publish it for all to see
in graphic art, Pantone 813

Linguistic Love

You’re an active agent
Dynamic, conditional perfect
You come around, in a declarative mood
as you wrap me in your complements
Your definite article is strong, so hard
Superlative
As we copula
Reciprocal pronouns and linking verbs
Varying the juxtaposition
Falling from our stream of consciousness
Reflexive in our discourse
One assimilation heroic couplets
Onomatopoeia.

The imagery as you back-channel
Causes a cacophony
The inflection – it’s imperative
I feel possessive
Your interjection is harsh, and exophoric
Your demonstrative objective’s predicative
Articulation is so final.

So we predicate a future perfect In agreement
But it’s just an allusion
There’s a clause
You’re transitive, living in the past participle
A negative pronoun in a paradox
You prefer to be polysyllabic Inanimate.

Your pathetic fallacy proves… You’re an oxymoron

They came again on Sunday

they came again on Sunday, their tiny
urchin faces, dirty and framed
in greasy hair, alive with creatures
too small to see
tiny fingers, reaching through the letterbox, into
the hall
into my conscience

they called for food, for shoes, for stripy
woollen scarves like the ones on the advert
for Christmas gifts
(where did they see that?)
I wonder
if their tiny feet are bare, and covered in scabs
they need the money they say
need it for their mother, she is sick
and tired,
they look so tired and weak
but their energy endures as they traipse the streets
ignorant of cold
(it is so cold)
knocking on doors, like mine
behind which families lie snuggled
and warm, children cosseted, clean, secure, little house
on the prairie

on their side, so dark, so angry, ao alien
and needy
I saw them again on Tuesday
in the town
maybe they were twelve years old, and smoking, swearing
in their Nike boots

All poems © R M Wallen, Imaginative Training, 2016