Poetry by Maureen Wilkinson

Ring of Glass

This poem was published in the 1993 Southwest Poetry Anthology and the 1994 Cornish Links Anthology.


Girls dressing for a dance; brushing their hair
and holding mirrors, turning before mirrors.
Their images, imprinted on the light,
are bounced invisibly from glass to glass.
Each frame contains the image of a girl
holding a mirror, which contains her image.
Glass girls, reducing to infinity.
How many girls dance a pin's head of light?
Girls dancing in a ring on the bright moorland.
The Spring has lit her blue and yellow flowers.
The ferns unfurl their tongues.  Girls in a ring
closing to the centre, opening
and turning, turning.
Stone girls, set in a ring.  Their dance
is stillness now.  Like travellers they stand,
letting the round Earth turn them.  Their perpetual cells
are fused from fire.  They circle the sun, miming
a shadow alphabet.  They spell out songs too slow for us to sing.
We are as earth, turning on Earth.  We have four seasons; birth,
sex, harvest, death;
but travellers are in a state of grace,
as are the unmoving.
And if the standing stones should be torn down;
when stone girls sleep inside stone walls and gate posts,
like hidden figures in a children's puzzle,
the dowser on the TV. demonstrates
that he can trace their auras on the land.
He walks the empty heath, and when the rods
tremble and sway, as if they are responding
to buried music, then he stops to stake
the border of each absence.
And shall we then remain, Love?  Will the quick
fire of our flesh still spring from dark to dark?
Time turning always in two opposite directions,
and at their intersection, stillness.

The Merry Maidens are a circle of granite standing stones in West Cornwall, said to depict a group of girls who were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.

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