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Ben Morgan: a poem


Julian of Norwich (1343 - after 1416) was an English anchorite who wrote the earliest surviving book by a woman in the English language, Revelations of Divine Love. Most of her life was spent in her cell adjoining a church in Norwich, from which she took her name. Revelations concerns sixteen mystical visions of God’s suffering body, vouchsafed to the author when she was gravely ill. Although it is not known whether she had any children, this poem is narrated by her adult son on a visit to her cell.

Darkness cleaves to her,

sure as a bittern's tail

to the jagged crest of flight,

a truce between darkness and wild life.

The rags of light that swing

in the window

are no interruption.

Spiders sleep in wakeful dark, and saints.

She is where she is not.

Patience, patience.

See how the trees undo themselves –

fruit is a joyful undoing,

all flowering a victory for courage.

Lady with the still clock face,

stopped at noontide,

do you still believe in fertility?

May I call you the names I learned in the nursery,

when you were softness and deep crests of bone,

and God the light breaking on my pillow?

I still see your hands as the red and white

roses of childhood.

Ben Morgan is a poet and academic based in Oxford, UK. His first poetry pamphlet, Medea in Corinth: Poems, Prayers, Letters, and a Curse, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2018. It retold the famous myth through poetic letters, spells, prayers, sonnets and songs, as well as theatrical interludes. He has also published poems in Oxford Poetry and in The Sunday Tribune and The High Window. He has taught Shakespeare studies and early modern literature at a number of colleges in Oxford and is completing a monograph on Shakespeare and human rights for Princeton University Press.


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