Burnt Child – Gillian Edwards

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1960 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: Herbert Palmer, Mrs S.M. Curry, Dennis Page

Enough, I have sued enough, worn too many stairs
Thin with my kneeling, polished with my prayers
Too many beads, and never seen nor heard
In love from you one smile, one look, one word.

I gave you all I had; must I give still
All that I am, my memory, my will,
My liberty, heaping them up to burn
Unpaid, unpromised, heedless of return?

I am no martyr, I shrink from the flame
Whose searing fingers probe with the same
Intensity as death. I had presumed
A consummation, not to be consumed.

I ask no longer then that you love me,
But not to love nor need you, not to see
Your absence in all beauty, nor to hear
Only your silence echoing in my ear.

Was my heart broken for my sake or yours?
No matter; now, called home, safe within doors
It mends itself, criss-crossed with scars so thick
They leave no room for agony to prick.

Here is no fierce distilling, but the old
And sterile clay baked harder in its mould
Of absolute indifference; yet until
These nerves shall wither and these senses chill,

My charred and shrivelled soul craves for the fire –
O God, with what longing and pain I desire my desire!

Copyright © Gillian Edwards 1960

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