The Bathers of the Ladies’ Pond
Each day before they slip their frocks and stockings off
and naked, slide like knives through satin water,
one by one they shake the chestnut trees and wait
for any peeping Tom or Dick to drop like plums
and scamper bruised and red-faced through
the scratching hedge or squeeze their awkward
bodies out between the fence posts and the wire.
Then all the lazy sidestroke mornings drifting into
breaststroke afternoons, the ladies of the pond take turns
to sit out on the side and listen for a rustle in the shrubs,
a crack of twig, they keep a look out for a glimpse
of collar-white or toecap-brown. Then they take up their
handbag mirrors, flash the sunlight into prying eyes till
dazzled, blinded by the glare, the guilty lookers blunder off
and leg it to the heath.
(from Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems (Two River Press) March 2017 first published in Striptease (Smith/Doorstop Books) 2001)
I sometimes speak
I sometimes speak as if my feet were bound,
as if I had been made to keep two paces back,
take smaller steps, or shuffle. My daintiness
amazes me, it keeps the words back in my throat,
I remember princesses who’d
lose their life for want of knowing some peculiar
goblin name, for saying it out loud in rooms filled up
with flax spun into gold; and fishtailed girls
whose tongues were ransomed for their song.
The riddles of the Elfin King were answered,
Sheba’s too were matched: I know them all by heart
and I’ll repeat them, soft, to loose the bandages
from off my feet, and run.
Susan Utting‘s poems have been widely published, including in The Times, TLS, The Independent, Forward Book of Poetry, The Poetry Review and Poems on the Underground. Following a first collection, Striptease, published by Smith/Doorstop, Susan’s Two Rivers Press collections are Houses Without Walls (2006), Fair’s Fair (2012) and Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems (March 2017).