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Rosie Jackson: a poem

Ancrene Wisse*

Not the first day. She's too full of the novelty

of dying. Nor the second, when pilgrims bring her

fresh-baked bread, the smell of yeast and wonder.

For weeks the pomp of her burial, the surprise

of her courage, uplift her. But as stone-rise follows

stone-rise, her feet grow restless. Regret feasts on her.

Sins start to stack like dirty pewter. She dreams

too much of the light of before, before this whale

of a god swallowed her whole, married her

to an endless dark after. Nor does she glimpse heaven

when she prays, but celandine, coastline, clearings

in a wood. She longs for hawks, the blue of midsummer.

As for The Ancrene Wisse, its writer free as a ferret, she

can't listen to brotherly pieties. No need for warnings

about spiritual pride, she knows that she has failed,

willing to recant every vow if she might walk the length

of a cloister. As for denying her Lord, the cock crows

every morning. Are her first loves now not doors and windows?

* Initially written in 1200 by a man for his three sisters as they were enclosed for life in cells twelve feet square, The Ancrene Wisse became a manual for female anchorites.

Widely published, Rosie was commended in the National Poetry Competition 2023 and has won many awards including 1st Teignmouth 2021, 1st Wells 2018 and 1st Stanley Spencer 2017. She enjoys collaborating and wrote Two Girls and a Beehive: Poems about Stanley Spencer with the late Graham Burchell.

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