Sheila and the Honourable Member 5.


Sheila’s graveyard

My ground is sour and sacred
with the bones of all my mothers

buried in me is one who worked
at tubs and maths and hymnbooks
she manufactured options
and climbed into Nepal
with a broken leg

buried in me is one who
bewildered with her wit.
anthroposophist chiromancer
violinist and witch
she was haughty for women
she would batter and woo
them in to life

buried in me is one who stormed
the City Council in a first
front row attack
she wore chains as if
they came from Paris

I am four women. one you see
married and saying yes
on the telephone
opening doors and galas
cutting ribbons and
tying them in bows
polishing vertebrae
to decorate the table

the others are making war:
trapped in me their bones
do battle quietly, quietly
they meet like swords in clay

stay at the gate
stay at the dinner party
chat with the nice door lady
here is haunted holy ground
stay at the dinner party

Rachel McAlpine 1977

Here, Sheila has borrowed my own female predecessors. In turn the verses list a few highly selective features of my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Sheila feels these formidable women are grinding away inside her while she is meekly doing her feeble duty as the wife of a member of parliament. Poor Sheila.