The Floating Woman
i.m. Laura Stephen half-sister of Virginia Woolf
Sister, since I stopped
living for you I’ve heard of your passing.
You filled your pockets with stones
and returned to water.
I am much improved.
I don’t spit or throw scissors into the fire
I don’t stammer as I no longer speak,
but I sing, sister.
When nurses bathe me
they pour rivers over my head.
I think of you, how every word
turned into water.
You wrote we were eight
though you never named me.
I am absent in our family portraits
but I am here.
We’re both ghosts now,
your overcoat bloats with water.
All day I wear a white night-gown
and dance for doctors.
Your lost footsteps echo.
I do not have a room, but corridors.
Walk here, sister. I will startle you
with my linen wings.
That word made Babba angry
and curse the slack horses that didn’t win.
Growing up I knew what it meant
but never felt its meaning,
till I stood behind you one day – invisible,
and overheard you say to a friend
you dreamed of her the night before.
The whip-crack of your tongue
buckled my knees ahead of the finish.
Babba, why didn’t you look up
from the sports pages and warn me,
You can’t compete with the ones they dream about.
Maria Taylor’s poems have been published in a range of magazines including Ambit, Magma, Stand and The Rialto. Her debut collection Melanchrini (Nine Arches Press) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize in 2013. She is also reviews editor for Under the Radar magazine. She lives in Leicestershire and can be found blogging at miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk