“That Jackson, he’s another one.
If he goes on opening windows we’ll all
Die of pneumonia.”
The native obsessions:
Health and the weather. Attendants have
The dogged, grainly look of subjects. Someone,
Surely, is going to paint them?
‘You don’t have a bad heart yet, do you?’
‘Not that I know of.’
‘They can examine you.’
‘But they don’t really know.’
The painters knew.
Gainsborough eyed his lovely, delicate daughters
And rich fat brewers: Turner his hectic skies.
They brooded on death by drowning (Ophelia, in real water);
Cloud without end; storm; storm coming on;
Bright exophthalmic eyes, consumptive colours,
And gorgeous goitred throats; the deluge,
The end of the world, and Adam’s
Appalling worm-wrapped birth.
Such patient watchers
Have eyes for those who watch. The child
Frets in its fever, the parents
Grieve in the background gloom. But the doctor,
Who has done all he can, and knows nothing
Will help or heal, sits raptly, raptly,
As if such absorbed attention were in itself
A virtue. As it is.
U.A. Fanthorpe is a ‘ late beginner in most things’. She started writing when she stopped teaching after sixteen years and then worked as a clerk/ receptionist in a Bristol hospital. Five collections of her poetry have been published by Peterloo Poets and a King Pinguin Selection appeared in 1986. She was recently Arts Council Writer Fellow at St Martin’s College, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.