Three Poems From Experience

Wheelchair Plaint

I only wanted my wheelchair mended.
No awesome task, or complicated deal.
Rules dictated, commonsense suspended,
So onward I go, bump, rattle, and squeal.
"We didn't issue it. We can't fix it.
we are bureaucrats bring us a paper,
proving it's ours, or that noone bought it.
We have procedures we cannot taper."

Out of it all, came a brand new wheelchair,
floating along on a flood of money.
Is this then the reason, there's no cash spare,
for old ladies hips, or a new kidney?

Waste not, and want not, the old adage went.
Now it's mend not, get new. Money's all spent.

Published in Rive Gouche 1993
© Elisabeth Standen


Soft and vulnerable the snail comes out,
swaying as he nibbles the pepper leaf.
Even if fate's giant hand picked him off,
he would still return, again and again.

I too, have a shell, comfortable, secure,
walled and shuttered from prying intruders.
Forth I come, shielded and armed by knowledge.
It was not always so. Then I could be
twisted aside down: pleasant, bland alleys.

Now I choose my own tracks. Groping,
sliding, striding along, testing
my strength and wits against whatever comes.
Savouring each challenge, bitter or sweet.

© Elisabeth Standen


It was April in July when we went to Tintern.
through that arch funnelled a chilly wind;
while scattered rain caressed the warm sun.

Was it like that, when the first Abbot and his twelve monks
stood looking down on the river from those woods
inhaling the Bluebells's acrid, scent>
Thinking Our Lady had thrown her cloak upon the grass.

Did those giant Beeches aisle the Sun's dappled shade,
etching graceful pillars on the inner eye,
urging them to stay, and show their faith?

We sat among the stones learning about their lives and dress.
Smelling hints of their infirmary garden;
Echoing your craftsman, long ago,
a carpenter built a giant screen?

I paced the ruined church to stand before the high altar's space
Now air and light flows through that east window, where they would have watched the rising sun. .
Bowing my head I silently mingled a prayer with theirs
a joint incense ever rising to his throne.
For centuries chanting was heard here; groups of curious children now chatter in this place.

Echoing the faith that forged it. Worn by weather, and time, this shell is open to the sky.
By the gap at the west door, I pause, and touched the stone,
to my fingers its powdery undulations yielded a soothing balm.
Leaning my cheek against its coolness I felt soothed as after fever
as though by healing prayer, and was glad that I had come.

© Elisabeth Standen