Sarah Parker

The Long Awakening

Let me take your hand.
Here in the glare, the green,
we have nothing to fear.
Remember that grubby afternoon
years ago
when they heckled us?
Trickled, crawling nearer and
I locked my arm around your waist to steady myself, and to
warm away your stare?
How did they hail us? Dykes.
And the decade before that? Spinsters.
How time flies.

Bed now and the dusty, glowing dawn.
I like to draw the duvet back, savour the soft
sweep of wave over shore, fabric brushing flesh.
There you are, my island, my beach.
We’ve learnt a way of being that Mother never taught.
The years coast us nearer to the sun, the heat.
Fears and secrets thaw, puddle
beneath our feet.
We paddle through them.

See, the day is drawn to its full height –
let me weigh your skull between my palms
upturned, in the light.
I remember when I didn’t dare to look you in the eye.
I remember the first time I wore trousers, the daily audience
smirking behind their knuckles, their fists.
But I caught your smile before it ran.
Your face, on cue, masked,
overcast. But you blushed.

Fifty years ago, I inhaled and exhaled with you
at a fingertip’s touch.
Fifty years ago, the word love cost too much.
Fifty years.
Let their eyeballs goggle, let their
greying heads shake. Fifty years.
Now we’re wide awake.

Sarah Parker is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University, UK. Her research focuses on women's poetry, 1880-1940. She has had poems published in Ink, Sweat & Tears and Iota.