Julia Copus: a poem



Creation Myth

On the narrow ridge where I and Thou meet,

there is the realm of "between".


Martin Buber


In days where you were not, I went as the crazed

but duteous bee goes to its tasks, my words were moths

caught under glass, my thoughts fleet as a spring

shower and you were nowhere, not in all those days

when I as a long-limbed girl started from school

for the witching hour of home, willing the road

on and on and, fear-slowed, dawdled, while the barley field

in my eye's corner – the left eye – shimmied and stilled

at the wind's whim. And again you were not there

later in the many hard-shadowed bedrooms

of almost-strangers, there least of all,

though if Buber had it right an inborn Thou

was all the while stretching a white root

into the earth of me: step-daughter, scholar,

sister, lover – all the many ways the world had then

for making sense of me, my life. My story

went on telling me – at any rate I

was being told. Some story! A brief flirtation

with the voguish North, afternoons where I sailed

under a slick umbrella calmly on

to one chore or another until desperation had me

questioning the choices I had made: is it possible

I might have made a go of things after all

with him? Or him? Hadn't I thought so at the time?

And sworn by it? But in the unknowable meanwhile

the sunlit length of garden where we'd meet (how

far from then forethought of) had shrunk to a year

away already – just a year! – its warm brick walls; then it was

weeks only, days... till at last I blinked and stepped

(or – yes – was drawn, for something did stir in me, inborn

or no, at the sight of you; you'll get the moment I mean

from my having told it so often: the breezy shiver

of birch leaves at your shoulder, your voice and the blue

of your jacket, the kindlier blue of your eyes), stepped,

as I've said, without thinking, onto the narrow

ridge of our beginning, and became.


Julia Copus was born in London in 1969, a stone’s throw from the Young Vic theatre, and now lives in Somerset. She has won First Prize in the National Poetry Competition and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and has been shortlisted for both the T S Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. This poem is from her fourth collection, Girlhood (Faber, 2019), which won the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry. In 2018, Julia was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.