Rosie Shepperd’s pamphlet That so-easy thing was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Competition and she was shortlisted for last year’s Bridport Prize. She was a finalist in the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize and has been commended in the Ware Prize and the Cafe Writers Prize and she was part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2010. Her poems have been published in Poetry Review, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review, THE SHOp, Rialto, Ambit, Interpreter’s House, Agenda and Bow-Wow Shop and the Warwick Review as well as anthologies in the US. She won 2nd prize in the Cardiff International Poetry Prize 2013 and was one of four shortlisted poets for the Forward Prize (best single poem of 2013). Her debut collection ‘The Man at the Corner Table’ will be published next year by Seren.
The girl you saw
wasn’t me. That girl crossed over Piccadilly, wearing tan
Roman sandals, a white shirt, drawn tight on a full blue
skirt. That girl who carried the scent of gardenias, her lips
smiling a colour that isn’t deliberate. That wasn’t me. That
girl had amber eyes; she whistled top C for a cab and waved
to the man who delivers on a Yamaha bike. It wasn’t me who
spread a tapestry shawl on the grass in Green Park, unpacked
pippins and bread, spiced meat and cheap wine. You notice
she waited for no one, threw grapes in the air and sank sharp
teeth deep into a picnic for one? That girl, she slept full stretch
in the sun, her hand in the pages of Bonjour Tristesse. I’d never
read that, not outside, not a slim book that might make me cry.
I’ve never wiped my face with the front, then the back of my
hand. That girl, she laughed out loud at herself, made an old
Viennese couple jump round and try to join in her day. Did you
see her stand quite still with her arms held high for ten or twelve
seconds? She packed up her things with the smallest of smiles
and glanced down at her watch, the watch I don’t wear. You see
it couldn’t have been me who pushed a curl of thick hair from
her face and strolled with no map towards Devonshire Gate,
licking two then three fingers; brushing small traces of salt and
white flour from her chin and her cheeks. What did I tell you?
What did I never I tell you? Know this: You could have dreamt
of this girl as me but you’ve never lived in her dreams as you.
I start to understand yellow
when I unfold your recipe for soufflé; feel the sweet brittle paper.
Rosehill, Mauritius, 1938. These ingredients are not possible.
Verna lemons, Suffolk eggs. It’s all right. I understand; only the sugar
made sense on the plantation between Floreal and Beau Bassin.
Some said Grand-papa loved the east of the island and the stretch
of water facing Rodrigues, across the Arabian Sea to Goa.
It all started there with his curious, grey-eyed mother.
Others said he was a bastard who pissed it all away in a poker shack
with a mulatto woman from north-west of Souillac.
No-one told her, when he burst through the windscreen of his Jensen
on a skin-full of Green Island, when the moon was less than.
For fourteen nights she sat with a bundle of children, on a grass hill
outside Floreal and each night Grand-maman passed silver
casuarinas, holding a warm clay dish of chicken and cardamom rice.