IN MEMORIAM 1971 

 

Certain women. And some young boys.
Women with some uncertainties
but something they knew about
that made them need to say something.
Two of my father’s sisters in childhood
and the first in my own lifetime –
Virginia Woolf and then,
oh in unbearably quick succession
my only sister. She died
but in her case they called it
a religious withdrawal
synchronous with late adolescence.
In a need for words there were
no words for, it seems to me now
it may have been impossible.
But I was too young then
I too took a long time growing up
and I was not aware of any need
not solved by tears or quickly effaced.
In fact supplied sooner than I was
ready. I conceived and then
I was married soon after.
I was lucky in those days and
it seems to me there were
other women whose troubles were
not to be solved by carrying the baby
even with the help of a wedding ring.
Sylvia Plath was not so simply satisfied.
Then last year the poet, Crae Ritchie,
my friend for not long enough,
a waver of flags for peace and joy.
This year, older, Stevie Smith.
In Scotland – or Ulster – she’d have
survived about half the time
by my stopwatch for I’ve been watching.
It used to be men who died for a cause
that other folk could hardly see. Now
it is women, rattling cans for aid to
the helpless, and young boys drugging
before they’ve even learned brutality?
I, personally, am getting scared
for me and my sons. And what if

I ever have a daughter?
Don’t drown us out of the world:
it could be springtime.

from "WORDS AND MUSIC"

 

 

Oh I am sick

to bloody death

from the gritty No

of a sour people

sick sick to death

And now I go

I sharpen my stainless skates

and I skate wild

on the frozen Yes

of my own joy

my joy, alone

How about you?

 

(June 1965)

HEADLINE!                         ---                      THIS DAY THE

                                                                           PLAYWRIGHTS

                                                                           BURNED THE 

                                                                           THEATRE

                                                                           DOWN!

 

 

In the beginning

of this hopeful day

a woman is building

for herself a cage

set on the through

road of the city that

fronts the theatre.

She wears for warmth a

sedate sandwich board

that soberly states – 

ALL I ASK IS FREEDOM

TO BE HEARD.

Several kindly souls

with bowls of soup

anxiously grow harsh

for she won’t eat.

They try to persuade her

that she will catch her

death and – even worse –

that she makes here a

public exhibition of

herself for which –

as Equity entreats –

there is no fee.

Called out at last,

patient police point out,

disinterested, that she has

taken up her station at the

Cross and that is sacrilege

no less, beside the 

gentleman’s lavatory too.

“The gentlemen have taken

to going without” the police

appeal at last to her

humanity.

“All I ask” she weeps, and

who could doubt her? “is

freedom to speak, freedom to

be heard.”

“Speak up!” they say, over

the traffic noise and, leaving

her to it, wearying, turn away.

“THE PLAYWRIGHTS ARE ALL DOOMED!”

the woman wails, tearing at her hair

a true Cassandra, delighting in her

woe. Till gradually her mad eyes

light with hope – “THIS DAY THE

PLAYWRIGHTS BURNED THE THEATRE

DOWN”    (“Explain! Explain! they

said, and she explained “They felt

the cold.    That’s how it was” she

sighed.)

Oh somebody at this point

pulls the strings and her time

comes.    The happy woman is

washed and dressed and urged

under applause and lights to

say her say.    It is impossible

not to believe in her.

“Paranoia uncovers certain

truths” psychologists admit.

As her audience waits at last

attentively, she hesitates.

“Somewhere” she says, pulling

at a glove “somehow in the fight

I lost the very loving thing

I had to say.”

And that is all.

Authorities, proved right again,

pronounce relief – “Well, no

more trouble there! We’ve

handled that quite well and 

pass the port.”

“The playwrights will not

burn the theatre down – not

yet” they murmur, relishing

their wine.

 

(December 1966)

The above poems are taken from THE TINY TALENT: Selected poems by JOAN URE (BRAE EDITIONS, 2018).

The editors of The Lincoln Review would like to thank the Scottish Theatre Archive, University of Glasgow Library, BRAE EDITIONS, and Joan's family for permission to publish the above poems. 

Joan Ure was the pen name of Elizabeth Thoms Clark (1918–1978), a Scottish poet and playwright. She was born Elizabeth (Betty) Thoms Carswell on 22 June 1918 in Wallsend, Tyneside, of Scottish parents who moved to Glasgow. Joan chose the pen-name Ure, because it sounded more Scottish to her. Having been born in England made her self-consciously Scots, and she adopted an ironic refrain throughout her public writing: "Scottish, more or less" and "as Scots as I am." Joan Ure wrote short stories and poems as well as short plays, but she made her mark with her work for the theatre. Among her work to achieve a professional production, I See Myself as This Young Girl, an exploration of a mother-daughter relationship, was directed by Michael Meacham at the Close Theatre Club, Glasgow, in 1967.

ISSN 2632-4423

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