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GRAPES IN THE CRATER

Camilla Lambert moved to West Sussex in 2012. She had lived on the Isle of Wight for over 18 years before that and it was there that she began to write poetry when she retired in 2007, seeking a total contrast from the life of a senior NHS manager, and before that of a social policy researcher and Open University

tutor-counsellor.

 

She has had individual poems published in ‘SOUTH’, ‘The Interpreter’s House’, ‘Sentinel Literary Quarterly’ and ‘Poetry Cornwall’, as well as in several anthologies, including ‘Benchmarks’(2011), ‘Bridgewatcher and other poems’(2013) and ‘Poems for a Liminal Age’(2015) A number have been placed or highly commended in both national and local competitions. In 2010 with Ed Matyjaszek she

co-edited ‘Island Voices’ a publication arising from a poetry competition celebrating the Poetry Society’s centenary and Tennyson’s bi-centenary.

 

In 2013 she gained an Open University First Class Honours degree in Humanities with Creative Writing. Currently she is working with other local writers and artists to organise a small scale arts festival to take place in the summer of 2016, designed to celebrate the countryside and history of a rural community threatened by road development. She is active in several poetry writing groups in Sussex, gaining both inspiration and poetic sustenance from writing colleagues. She is an active grandmother and gardener and escapes from time to time on walking holidays.

 

CAMILLA LAMBERT

 

GRAPES IN THE CRATER

 

ISBN 978-1-910834-04-6

 

Indigo Dreams Publishing

 

Poetry

 

138 x 216mm

 

36 Pages

 

£6.00 + P&P UK

 

PUB: 23 NOVEMBER 2015

 

 

ORDER HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acting my Age

 

When I was sixteen I wore straight skirts,

cardigans, blouses sewed  by my aunt

from Butterick patterns pinned, folded

into their packets to use another time.

Anyone would have thought me thirty five.

 

When I was thirty five I danced round

a birthday bonfire, fingers touched flame,

the woods crackled with discordant languages

wind in my hair tempted with anything,

everything. I could have been twenty three.

 

When I was twenty three all I wanted

was a kindly man to bring me tea in bed,

pay the mortgage on the dot, cherry trees

foaming down the garden path each spring.

I talked of pensions as if I were forty eight.

 

When I was forty eight I began to see

my eyes had become my mother’s, a droop

of disappointment in the corner, flickering

with anxiety when checking for the exit.

My soul belonged to a woman of sixty nine.

 

When I was sixty nine the dawn came earlier;

released from work’s dreariness I woke

to blackbirds pouring out fresh promises.

Age brought surprises, once-bolted doors

opened into snaking alleyways: I was twelve again.

 

When I was twelve I knew how disease tasted,

cold as a pebble in a mountain stream,

and what lay behind the warning ‘Beware

the wash of passing ships’. Staggering

up the shifting beach I had reached fifty six.

 

When I was fifty six I took a younger lover,

sex coloured my life crimson, purple, gold.

Peonies and foxgloves were my heralds,

each day another day in paradise, bright

as if I was in love and only sixteen.

 

 

 

No Silver Lining

 

He stitched a skirt of clouds for her to wear

in the underworld, for blurred remembering:

whirlwind, avalanche, how a new-born dares

to breathe; it had a hem of cumulus, assembling

and dissolving a pageant of centaurs, unicorns.

A waistband sewn from cirrus, with fine shirring,

held tight pleats of nimbostratus, edged in torn

blue spray. He wrapped her. He saw her stirring

as she lay, contrived a blindfold of weighty rain

to hold her flickering eyelids shut. He threaded

silky mist  to seal her lips against squalls of pain

and memory too soon, screwed down the leaded

box with icicles, lest she rise and, snarling, leap

into his face and shout the very end of sleep.

 

 

Eruption

 

He loved his days, sketching

by a door into the walled garden

where peaches ripened,

solitude to study patterns of myth,

time for sailing to far islands.

 

But something was missing:

a hand to hold,

a body to reach for in the night,

touch to calm

the magma of his wanting.

 

He took Pygmalion as his tutor,

painted a likeness –

a lady in a russet dress,

flamed her into life, with fumarole veils

to keep her in half light.

 

Climbing the slopes of Santorini,

poised on top of Vesuvius

he called up

her skin’s smoky tones, her glance

as lazy as her whippet’s was eager.

 

He kept warm with thoughts

of their couplings

her sheets scented with orange blossom,

how afterwards

they would name the stars

 

scattered like sparks from Stromboli

tossed wilfully high

towards the clouds and falling away

into waves,

obsidian-black below the rocks.

 

When his heart erupted,

spattering the orangery with ash,

she walked with a smile

out of the frame,

tossed the bowl of grapes into the crater’s fire.

 

 

 

Sequoia

 

My mother is fading. Long silences

between words.

I give her a tree.

 

To be exact it is a giant sequoia

and its height

is like a Bach chorale.

 

She wants to know how old it is

and I tell her

over three thousand years.

 

We watch as forest birds take shelter.

Chickadees and jays

catch the falling beads of rain.

 

I draw the life cycle of the longhorn beetle,

cone-burrower.

She likes to be informed.

 

And fire? She seeks confirmation,

has heard wildfires

give new breath to saplings.

 

At the end I show her all the family

balanced in pairs

along the highest branches.

 

She swings her way up, smart and agile

as a chamoix.

She calls out Wait for me!

Diverse reflections on family relationships, the strains and gains of love and aging, and how we celebrate the complexities of living through words, painting and music. The poems range across a number of forms.

 

 

 

“In one of Camilla Lambert’s poems, a television journalist ‘offers her eyes and ears, invites me in.’ So, too, does Lambert, who—lucky for her reader—has eyes that miss nothing and an ear that even the most accomplished poet might envy. In these skilful, varied odes to the life cycle, doubt and loss  surrender to optimism and regeneration.” Kathryn Maris  

 

“Tugged by two magnetic poles, reality (“the persistence of thistles”) and imagination (“The Fabricator”), Camilla Lambert is that rare poet at home in in-betweenness, alike honouring

dream-logic and vigilant precision, sorrow and gladness.  My favourite poem here, “Acting my age", perfectly depicts the giddy dissonance between physical years and seasons of the spirit.” A. E. Stallings

 

So You Want to Paint Silence  

 

Go for un-peopled rooms, white

doors half open, shine on round

tables, piano lids, uncluttered,

no movement except for dust

dancing in beams of sunlight

that fall onto bare boards

in stretched-out rectangles.

 

Perhaps suggest, but do not

grant, a promise of someone

entering from the next room,  

a laugh might leak out at any

moment. Muffle each shade

of alabaster, chalk, buff,

with a grey pall of quiet.

 

You could relent, introduce

a woman, her hair neatly pinned,

seen from behind, the white

lace edging of her apron bold

against her black dress. Let her

wait by the window, gaze

downward, thoughts withheld.

 

If she were to turn, her eyes would

search your face, her lips closed

her stare level. Without pleading

a finger would steal to her mouth

bidding you keep the words unsaid,

and the rustle of her skirt would

fade before you had even heard it.

 

 

 

Breaking News

 

 

A woman, badly charred,

on the bed.

The thin reporter turns

stepping round heaped clothes

which seem to be

a body, legs burned.

She offers

her eyes and ears,

invites me in.

 

Yes, I have seen hair

singed to wiry spirals

by a candle held too near

but never

the jellied crisp

of flesh

dissolved in hell-blaze

or how a blackened face

still wears a mask of fear.

 

A woman, badly charred,

on the bed.

I am swamped

by thud of feet running across the yard

sudden crack of guns

slosh of petrol.

Each wall of the battered house

slams back like thrown-open shutters,

breaks apart to show

 

a woman, badly charred,

on the bed.

Camilla on the bench crop