Elaine Feinstein

Elaine Feinstein Poems

Email from Wellington (unsent)

When I travel without you, I am no more
than a gaudy kite on a long umbilical.
My flights are tethered by this telephone line
to your Parker Knoll, where you wait
lonely and stoical.

About the Festival: there were no penguins
crossing the road on the North Island,
no whales in Wellington harbour .
The nearest land mass is Antarctica, and
the wind blows straight from there to New Zealand.

Katherine Mansfield lived here as a child.
and I've bought gartered stockings in bright colours
to honour her in the character of Gudrun.
For you, I've bought a woollen dressing gown.
You were always home to me. I long for home.


Last night I wondered where you had found to sleep.
You weren't in bed. There was no-one in your chair.

Through every window the white, full moon glared .
I shivered in the garden. Where are you, my darling ?

I called out miserably: You will catch cold .
Waking, I let the daytime facts unfold.


The clock's gone back. The shop lights spill
over the wet street, these broken streaks
of traffic signals and white head-lights fill
the afternoon. My thoughts are bleak .

I drive imagining you still at my side,
wanting to share the film I saw last night,
- - of wartime separations, and the end
when an old married couple re-unite - -

You never did learn to talk and find the way
at the same time, your voice teases me.
Well, you're right, I've missed my turning,
and smile a moment at the memory,

always knowing you lie peaceful and curled
like an embryo under the squelchy ground,
without a birth to wait for, whirled
into that darkness where nothing is found.


We are keeping an eye on the girls, so that the kvass
doesn't go sour in the jug, or the pancakes cold,
counting over the rings, and pouring Anis
into the long bottles with their narrow throats,

straightening tow thread for the peasant woman:
filling the house with the fresh smoke of
incense and we are sailing over Cathedral square
arm in arm with our godfather, silks thundering.

The wet nurse has a screeching cockerel
in her apron - her clothes are like the night.
She announces in an ancient whisper that
a dead young man lies in the chapel.

And an incense cloud wraps the corners
under its own saddened chasuble.
The apple trees are white, like angels - and
the pigeons on them - grey - like incense itself.

And the pilgrim woman sipping kvass from the ladle
on the edge of the couch, is telling
to the very end a tale about Razin
and his most beautiful Persian girl.


the shelter, the old washhouse
water limed the walls
we only entered once or twice
cold as a cellar we
shivered in the stare
of a bare electric light

and nothing happened:
after the war
ants got in the
builders came

and yet at night
erotic with the
might-be of disaster
I was carried into
dreaming with delight

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Elaine Feinstein Biography

Elaine Feinstein (born 24 October 1930, Bootle, Lancashire) is a poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, biographer and translator.

Born in Bootle, Liverpool, Feinstein grew up in Leicester. Her father left school at 12 and had little time for books, but was a great storyteller. He ran a small factory making wooden furniture through the ...

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