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Profile of Gwyneth Lewis

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2.
An Explanation of Doily
To Adam Z

You asked me last summer: "What is a doily?"
Sometimes, at lunch, I walk on the beach.
Today I was coatless. A storm cloud threatened,
Dark as a spaceship. Should it pour,
A sister ship down in the water
Would throw up grappling nets to the surface,
Rain rise to soak me. Behind a sandbank,
Waves touched the shore, no more than a shimmer.

Less rare than its cousin, the antimacassar,
A doily's placed between sweet thing and china.
Both survive where vicars arrive
For tea, are given thin cup and saucer
Instead of a mug. If your cake's so rich
That it's leaking syrup, you'll need a doily.
Held up, its paper's the filigree
Of snowflake, or fingers looked through in fear.

The shower holds off. My shoe's a doily.
Without it, where would I be on these shells
That crunch underfoot, like contact lenses,
As I gingerly walk, on my mermaid way
Back to my husband in his human dwelling?

Someone is pulling a blue toy trawler
Along the horizon to port, so smoothly
It looks realistic. Sea's partly doily.
Surfers ride its lace to their downfall,
After all, we're nothing but froth.
Like a carpet salesman, the indolent tide
Flops a wave over, showing samples: "Madam,
This one is durable, has a fringe." Under
Its breath the sea sighs, "Has it come
To this? Must everything always end in ... doily?"

It must. Broad afternoon. The rain-cloud barges
Have passed and here's a cumulonimbus parade
Of imperial busts, the Roman rulers
In historical order which, I think, would please you.
Their vapor curls and noble foreheads
Are lit up in lilac because they're invading
The west. Next come the philosophers and, last of all,
The poets. Pulleys draw them delicately on.
Here comes Lucretius, then Ovid, then Horace
In lines, saying relentlessly, "Doily," "Doily,"
Till stars take over and do the same.
...

Comments

Fabrizio Frosini 02 October 2018
In 2001 she was awarded a £75,000 grant by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to carry out research and to sail to ports that are linked historically with the inhabitants of her native city, Cardiff. Gwyneth Lewis writes both in Welsh, her first language, and in English.
9 0 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 02 October 2018
Poet Gwyneth Lewis was born in 1959 in Cardiff, Wales. She studied English at Cambridge University. She also studied at Harvard and Columbia; was a Harkness Fellow and worked as a freelance journalist in New York. She returned to Britain and worked in television.
9 0 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 02 October 2018
Gwyneth Lewis was Wales's National Poet from 2005-06, the first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship.
9 0 Reply

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