And the day Adrienne Rich died this week was the same date Virginia Woolf walked across fields down to the bank of the River Ouse to drown herself on 28 March 1941.
The work goes on, new generations of readers rise up hungry for the visions of women who have gone before them.
i The Window
It was Virginia’s charcoaled stare
that put me off: her disappointment
in me, the reader, before I even started.
So I walked into the exam without her:
without the easel, the skull or the shawl,
the well-turned stocking, Minta’s
missing brooch. In the hall I watched
the future show its pulse and all the girls,
the girls who’d read the book, set off
together, lined up at desks and rowing.
ii Time Passes
You need a daubière and too much time –
three days’ absence from the plot. Rump
bathed overnight in brandy, a stout red
brought back from France. The liquor’s
boiled once, added back to beef, calf’s foot,
lardons, les legumes. For six hours – or more –
it idles. It can’t be over-cooked. It will not
spoil. At table, a stream of consciousness
breaks out. And it rains. It rains. If not
the stew, what was the woman on about.
iii The Lighthouse
The year I gave the book another go,
[the year my mother died], I learned
everything big happens in parenthesis –
marriage, birth, The War, poetry. Is it the full
manuscript or just the bits in the middle
that count. Is it the woman at the window,
marking the hours, from cover to cover –
or these few lines: that as she eased out from
the bank and into the water the brackets
of it opened and closed about her.