365 Day Writing Challenge 13: The Letter Poem

365 Day Writing Challenge

13. The Letter Poem: Write a poem using words from a famous letter or a letter from your own collection.

“You are my lover and I am your mistress, and kingdoms and empires and governments have tottered and succumbed before now to that mighty combination – the most powerful in the world” – Extract from a letter from Violet Keppel to Vita Sackville-West (1919).

Vita,

I truly believed that we could change the world, you and I. Well maybe not the world. But our worlds. We created a little world for ourselves. Fantasies, games. I was feverish for you, desperate for you to transport me yet again. You are a true artist, Vita. A true artist can take someone away to another place through their art, and this is what you did to me. You took me away, made me feel that I was different. That I was beguiling, a dark and sparkling woman who turned your head. But when you left, Vita,when you left, you dropped me unceremoniously back into this world, dull and grey as it is. And as I hit the ground all the magic seeped out of me, like air wheezing from an old sofa. And I was myself once again, dumpy and unoriginal, while you carried on as before, seducing others, reminding me that you, yes you, were the beguiling one, not me, no, of course, of course not me. You were the master of the games all along; you were holding all the cards, while I, foolish dog that I was, followed you with my tail wagging.

You made me feverish, Vita. I felt that I had to have you, otherwise nothing made sense any more, not one jot. Is it sad to miss a fantasy? But how much was fantasy, and how much was real? My head hurts.

Vita. The lights are so bright here. Everyone is so false, their teeth too white, their voices too loud…my head hurts. Too much drink, Vita, too much smoke…the smoke gets in your head, you know?

I know you loved me, Vita. But you didn’t trust me, you didn’t believe me…

Why couldn’t they have left us alone? Left us alone to play, just play, we weren’t harming anyone, play never hurt anyone?

I was feverish, mad. I always wonder about the mad. Who are we to say they would be happier, bungled and botched like the rest of us? Why don’t we let them be if they aren’t hurting anyone?

I would never hurt you Vita.

***

Another unsent letter. This shall go to the smoke like the others.


 

Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West had a long affair, starting when they were just teenagers. The affair ended after Vita accused Violet of breaking their pact (to never have sex with either of their husbands). Vita went on to have affairs with other women and men, most famously Virginia Woolf. Violet went into decline in her later years in France, and I imagined her writing this letter during that time. if you would like to learn more about their relationship I greatly recommend reading Diana Souhami’s Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter.  

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365 Day Writing Challenge 12: Hello

365 Day Writing Challenge

12. Greeting: Write a story or poem that starts with the word “hello”.

“Hello?”

There was silence on the other end of the line. Then her voice. Startling, yet still clipped, still nasal, still upper class.

“Yes?”

Janie’s heart was pounding in her chest. She could feel it echoing around her whole body. Her mother hadn’t recognised her voice.

“Yes?”

That tone was like a quick stab, reminding her of so many childhood memories. Why are you doing that. Why can’t you be quicker. Why are you like this. Throughout her whole life – why. Her mother questioning her existence.

“Hi, Mum.” There, she’d said it. She was past the point of no return now. She’d expected it at least a moment’s pause. For her mother to be at least a bit surprised, at least slightly taken aback, that her daughter was getting back in touch with her after seven years. But, no. Mrs Wiltshire was never surprised. Well no, that wasn’t strictly true. She had been. Once. Just that once.

But not now. She’d had seven years to regain her composure.

“Well?” her mother said. “Did you call me up to just breathe down the phone?”

Another stab. Though she should have expected it. her mother was always cold, always sardonic. Always waiting for you to do something to interest her.

“Did you see the news?” Janie asked.

“News concerning what?”

Janie took a big breath. “My people. People like me. Our news.”

“Disgusting.” her mother said. “Absolutely disgusting.”

“Really? Over a million people are disgusting are they?”

“Is this why you called me? To gloat?”

“No.” She paused. “Actually yes. I am. I’m not a freak. There are millions of people like me. And even more who think like me. We proved you wrong today.” She paused, but then went hurtling on, so her mother couldn’t interrupt. If she didn’t say it now then she never would. “You don’t love me.” Strange to hear it aloud. “If you did then you would be happy that I’ve found someone who loves me. You’d be happy that I have friends who love me. You’d be happy –” her breath coming faster and faster now – “that this whole country sees me as a person. They think I have rights. They know that I’m a human being.”

Then she slammed the phone down, the noise of it somehow still not as loud as her own heartbeat. She stared at the phone, terrified that it would start to ring, but knowing that it wouldn’t. She heard the patio doors slide open and looked up. Leanne was stood there, smiling cautiously.

“Everything alright?”

“Yes,” said Janie. She would tell Leanne about it later. But not now. Leanne cocked her head, still looking concerned, so Janie pulled her into a hug. They held each other in the sunlight spilling through the open windows. They could hear the laughter of their friends in the garden. Janie breathed in the smell of Leanne’s hair, and thought of what her small, scared, childhood self would think if she saw her now. If she knew how she had stood up to her mother.

She thought of her mother, forever straight-backed, forever with her lips pursed. She knew that phone call hadn’t resolved everything. But it was a start. It was definitely a start. Today was the start of a lot of things.

( Featured image from BBC)


 

A woman calls her mother after Ireland votes Yes. 

© Kate Warren and Rebuild Expand, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild Expand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.