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Cleopatra on Portstewart Strand
Poet: Rosie Johnston
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, sc. 2:
The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them
There she was, all happy helplessness,
that purple car of hers, sun-glossed in its evening wear,
chrome hubcaps silvered by the waves,
us weans in matching goosepimples
home knit jumpers yelling to go home,
even if it did mean ten green bottles yet again.
Intoxicated by the first whiff of beach air,
she would never park where we were told,
always drove the chariot straight to the palest sand.
Yanked the brake on hard, raced all giggles and squeals
to lose her usual scent of chip fat and onions in the surf
before she draped herself in a deckchair
strapless, guiltless, matchless in her
heedlessness of anyone.
That day no gravity applied,
not even when, past home time,
the day’s shine deep in her laugh lines,
the car refused to leave.
More throttle dug us deep,
ignored all blandishment and blarney.
Everybody out; she honked and clamoured:
‘Heave!’ We weans shoved alright, shoulders to the car.
Slowly smiling fathers came to help.
Exhaust fumes swathed us all,
sand and seaweed flying,
lipstick on her teeth, the long red nails
urging from the window,
‘Come on, come on!’
and high above the racket
and all the men
Rosie Johnston’s fourth pamphlet of micro-poems Six-Count Jive (Lapwing Publications, 2019) describes her recovery from CPTSD into a world of natural beauty and happiness by the sea. Recent anthologies include Places of Poetry (OneWorld, 2020), Her Other Language (Arlen House, 2020) and American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery. Rosie grew up on Northern Ireland's Causeway coast and lives now by the sea in north Kent.
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