Now I am a Tower of Darkness
As a child I knew
How, beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the shadow
Of this darkness,
Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.
Now I am a tower of darkness,
Whose windows, opening inward,
Stare down upon tidal thoughts.
And in this responsive bell,
Hollowed by the silence of the eyes,
The mind swings its clapper.
And life resolves into relationships
Of cadence and dissonance.
The Woman with Child
How I am held within a tranquil shell,
As if I too were close within a womb,
I too enfolded as I fold the child
As the tight bud enwraps the pleated leaf,
The blossom furled like an enfolded fan,
So life enfolds me as I fold my flower.
As water lies within a lovely bowl,
I lie within my life, and life again
Lies folded fast within my living cell.
The apple waxes at the blossom’s root,
And like the moon I mellow to the round
Full circle of my being, till I too
Am ripe with living and my fruit is grown.
Then break the shell of life. We shall be born,
My child and I, together, to the sun.
Awaits no solar quadriga,
But a musty cab,
Whose wheels revolving spiders scare
Pigeons from plump pavanes among the cobbles.
Past the green and yellow grins
Of bold advertisements
On the walls of the Temple of Arrivals and Departures,
(Due homage to the puffing goddesses
Stout, butting with iron bosoms),
We drive, and watch
The geometry of the Dublin houses
Circle and square themselves; march orderly;
Past the waterfalls of lace dripping
Elegantly in tall windows;
Under a sun oblique above the streets’
Ravines; and past the river,
Like the slippery eel of Time,
Eluding us; eight miles clopping
Behind the horses rump to where
The mouth of Dublin gulps at the sea.
And there beside the harbour
And the Castle,
And the yellow rocks and the black-beaked gulls,
The piebald oyster-catchers, limpets, lobster-pots,
There is a house with a child in it,
Two cats like ebony
(Or liquorice); and a kitten with a face
Like a black pansy, a bunch of fronded paws;
And a dog brighter than a chestnut,–
A house with a bed
Like an emperor’s in it, –
It is late. Let us pay the cabman and go in.
Now I Am A Tower of Darkness and other poems are © Freda Laughton.
Freda Laughton (1907-1995) was born in Bristol and moved to Co. Down after her marriage. She published one collection of poetry A Transitory House (Jonathan Cape, 1945), little else is known of her life and work. She may have lived in Dublin for some time, as her poem The Welcome details the textures of Dublin City and its suburbs, and suggests she knows the city by heart. Freda Laughton’s poems were submitted by Emma Penney, a graduate of the Oscar Wilde Centre, Trinity College Dublin. Her thesis, Now I am a Tower of Darkness: A Critical History of Poetry by Women in Ireland, challenges the critical reception of Eavan Boland and the restrictive criteria, developed in the 1970’s, under which poetry by women in Ireland has been assessed. She considers the subversive nature of women’s poetry written between 1921 and 1950, and calls into question the critical assumption that Eavan Boland represents “the first serious attempt in Ireland to make a body of poems that arise out of the contemporary female consciousness”. In Object Lessons, Boland concluded that there were no women poets before her who communicated “an expressed poetic life” in their work. Emma’s thesis reveals how this view has permeated the critical landscape of women’s poetry, facilitating an absurd privation of the history of poetry by women in Ireland and simplifying it in the process