‘Eleanor’ revisited

     One might have thought that
your confinement
would change everything
concerning you and me
but it doesn’t.
Maternity suits you.
Your figure loses nothing
and I have re-dedicated myself
to the female form
as your body changes.
Some women are so self-conscious
– I have seen them –
almost apologetic,
but please, don’t hide it.
It is so rare to fine anything
as beautiful as an unborn child
or a fulfilled woman
these days,
and you are,
oh, so beautiful.

     You always were the lady,
and still stir my devotion
amid the concrete and glass
of these familiar places.
Did we share so much
     in those dim days?
     in your slim days?

     White lace is so feminine
don’t you think …
wear it for me,
I will remember you like this.

Pink ribbons
or blue?

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1 Comment »

  1. Martin Baker Said:

    In lower VI form (age 17) in the VI form block there was a small lecture theatre and at lunch time the kids had access to it to use the hifi in there and play music (in the dark, very loud, as you do when you are 17-18!) My musical tastes up to that point were pretty tame and I (o so vividly) remember going in there one lunch time and standing in the dark listening to Lindisfarne’s “Lady Eleanor”. It was some time before I knew who the band was or what the track was about (actually I still have no idea what it’s about!) but the lyrics and the music took me somewhere I had never been before.

    Lady Eleanor

    Bashee playing magician sitting lotus on the floor
    Belly dancing beauty with a power driven saw
    Had my share of nightmares, didn’t think there could be much more
    then in walked Rodrick Usher with the Lady Eleanor

    She tied my eyes with ribbon of a silken ghostly thread
    I gazed with trouble vision on an old four poster bed
    Where Eleanor had risen to kiss the neck below my head
    and bid me come along with her to the land of the dancing dead

    But it’s all right, Lady Eleanor
    All right, Lady Eleanor
    I’m all right where I am

    She gazed with loving beauty like a mother to a son
    like living, dying, seeing, being all rolled into one
    Then all at once I heard some music playing in my bones
    the same old song I’d heard for years, reminding me of home

    But it’s all right, Lady Eleanor
    All right, Lady Eleanor
    I’m all right where I am

    Then creeping on towards me, licking lips with tongues of fire
    a host of golden demons screaming lust and base desire
    and when it seemed for certain that the screams could get no higher
    I heard a voice above the rest screaming ‘You’re a liar’

    But it’s all right, Lady Eleanor
    All right, Lady Eleanor
    I’m all right here in your arms

    But “Eleanor” was more than that to me. My lower VI Human Biology teacher was a lovely, gorgeous, lady called Helen Trimble. Who knows, if she had been called Gertie or something instead then things might have been different but I developed a serious crush on Mrs Trimble who became for me the living personification of Lady Eleanor. For that year, and the next until she left the school on maternity leave, she was my academic as well as my creative muse.

    Somewhere I still have a bookmark I made for myself from a piece of card. On one side is a revision timetable, with the words “Remember for whom you are working – and why” written in the “secret” writing I had devised (heavily based on the Tenwar …)

    Of course, I got a grade A in Human Biology – and just for the heck of it (and to impress Helen!) I took the straight Biology O level too after revising for it over the summer on my own.

    During the two years of VI form, Helen/Eleanor found creative expression in many of my poems and short pieces of poetic writing. The news that she would be leaving the school hit me hard but at the same time I learned something that has stayed with me ever since – shit happens, get over it.

    I heard today that (she) may be leaving. That is all – no emotion; yet. Probably because I know there must not be any. I remember thinking, ‘I suppose it is for the best.’ Then, ‘No, neither for the best nor the worst.’ If she leaves my world will lose its inspiration: but I have not the right to judge for good or ill.

    ‘… though Time’s unflinching rigour
    in mindless rote has ruled from sight the substance now …’
    I live, and all the joys and sighs are Life.

    Weave out, dark Destiny, thy web before mine eyes;
    For what now seems too sad may be the best surprise.

    [The “unflinching rigour” quote in that piece is from Thomas Hardy’s “At Castle Boterel”, one of many he wrote after the loss of his wife Emma Gifford http://www.brycchancarey.com/places/cornwall/hardy1.htm%5D

    Most explicitly – and perhaps my first piece that showed anything like emotional maturity – Helen inspired the poem “‘Eleanor’ revisited”:

    ‘Eleanor’ revisited

    One might have thought that
    your confinement
    would change everything
    concerning you and me
    but it doesn’t.

    Maternity suits you.
    Your figure loses nothing
    and I have re-dedicated myself
    to the female form
    as your body changes.
    Some women are so self-conscious
    – I have seen them –
    almost apologetic,
    but please, don’t hide it.
    It is so rare to fine anything
    as beautiful as an unborn child
    or a fulfilled woman
    these days,
    and you are,
    oh, so beautiful.

    You always were the lady,
    and still stir my devotion
    amid the concrete and glass
    of these familiar places.
    Did we share so much
    in those dim days?
    in your slim days?

    White lace is so feminine
    don’t you think …
    wear it for me,
    I will remember you like this.

    That piece was published in the school magazine in my upper VI year. If she guessed, if anyone guessed, I never knew it.

    When I moved to university and discovered girls my own age, Eleanor was still there in the background. My attempts to reconcile the elusive dream of “Eleanor” with the reality of Janet, the girl who I sat with in lectures and who tended to wreck her lab equipment in practicals is best expressed in this poem (logically if not actually the direct successor to “‘Eleanor’ Revisited”):

    Poetry was easy …

    Poetry was easy when
    I called the tune

    l’amour courtois, ma belle Helene …

    Now ‘Eleanor’ respells her name
    and wraps thus mystery
    in different garb.
    How fair the stars beneath an Illian sky …
    but concrete and prestressed demands a new vibration,
    faded denim for the lady.

    And just when I thought I had it taped …

    Now the girl that is within you
    calls me,
    nor bewitchment nor enchanted
    still she calls me
    deeply from inside
    where once I kept a quiet house
    and ordered a retreat
    you penetrate in subtle searing ways
    that catch my poor emotion from repose …

    oh, that my heart could feign
    such disarray!

    You know,
    a lady scarce would catch me out again
    so soon
    without an explanation …

    … forgive me, love is deep.

    In later years Eleanor would hold less sway but as a romantic ideal she is a part of me that has always been there. If she had not, I might not have confused quite so many women.


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