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Poetry Publishers 1972 - 2009

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MITCHELL, Elma

The Poor Man in the Flesh

Paperback

0905291042

Original Cover Price:

1.35

Drysdale,-Between-Dryden-&-04

THE POOR MAN IN THE FLESH
Poems by Elma Mitchell

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In 1969 Elma Mitchell won the 100 Camden Festival Poetry Book Prize. A poem in this collection attracted much attention when it appeared in the P.E.N. Anthology 1967; the Times Literary Supplement reviewer wrote: “the most enjoyable and immediately striking poem is by an entirely unknown contributor, Elma Mitchell. Her ‘Thoughts After Ruskin’ deserves wide notice.”

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Thoughts After Ruskin

Women reminded him of lilies and roses.
Me they reminded rather of blood and soap,
Armed with a warm rag, assaulting noses,
Ears, neck, mouth and all the secret places:

Armed with a sharp knife, cutting up liver
Holding hearts to bleed under a running tap,
Gutting and stuffing, pickling and preserving,
Scalding, blanching, broiling, pulverising,
- All the terrible chemistry of their kitchens.

Their distant husbands lean across mahogany
And delicately manipulate the market,
While safe at home, the tender and the gentle
Are killing tiny mice, dead snap by the neck,
Asphyxiating flies, evicting spiders,
Scrubbing, scouring aloud, disturbing cupboards,
Committing things to dustbins, twisting, wringing,
Wrists red and knuckles white and fingers puckered,
Pulpy, tepid. Steering screaming cleaners
Around the snags of furniture, they straighten
And haul out sheets from under the incontinent
And heavy old, stoop to importunate young,
Tugging, folding, tucking, zipping, buttoning,
Spooning in food, encouraging excretion,
Mopping up vomit, stabbing cloth with needles,
Contorting wool around their knitting needles,
Creating snug and comfy on their needles.

Their huge hands! Their everywhere eyes! Their voices
Raised to convey across the hullabaloo,
Their massive thighs and breasts dispensing comfort,
Their bloody passages and hairy crannies,
Their wombs that pocket a man upside down!

And when all’s over, off with overalls,
Quickly consulting clocks, they go upstairs,
Sit and sigh a little, brushing hair,
And somehow find, in mirrors, colours, odours,
Their essences of lilies and roses.

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THE POOR MAN IN THE FLESH
Price 1.35 per copy post free
Cover illustration: ‘Male Head’ by kind permission of the Curator of the Gloucester City Museum.
Publication: DECEMBER 1976 (56 pages laminated paperback)