Caroline Price

'Summer '39', and it must have been warm,
the reader lying
in a field of long grass, abstractedly twisting
a flower stem between her fingers

as the sleuths in straw hats and ankle-length skirts
raced down stairs and corridors,
getting themselves
into one hobble after another,

led by the tall, graceful Dorothy -
and the book falls open
at a climax,
the moment of confronting the villain postponed

by this splay of flowers,
yarrow, harebell and germander speedwell
still holding traces of their creamy blue,
the sky that afternoon

as she lay there reading, she was Dorothy,
of course, who wouldn't be? -
(Dorothy who had just burst in
breathless, flushed, eyes flashing) -

she too could face up to anything;
until her girlhood was stopped abruptly,
slammed shut
and thrust away on a high shelf

where it waits still, in volume after volume,
olive and khaki spines
gilt-edged like uniforms:
I can feel the pulse in my fingertips

as the bossed outlines of girls
emerge from the darkness
tentatively, like wild animals
that knew they were becoming extinct.

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