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Where’er You Walk

Patricia Beer, 2 September 1999

... saves her inexplicably. She is last seen with what she wanted most: A baby god and immortality. Patricia Beer died on 15 August. She sent ‘Where’er You Walk’ to the ‘LRB’ on 10 July with a letter in which she said: ‘I find I am pleased with it, even proud of it, and this naturally makes me suspect that it is doggerel. The problem, I’m ...

The Conjurer

Patricia Beer, 1 May 1980

... Arriving early at the cemetery For ‘the one o’clock’, we looked around At the last sparks of other people’s grief, The flowers fading back into the ground. A card inscribed ‘With reverent sympathy From the Magicians’ Club’ was propped against A top hat made of blossoms and a wand Tied with a black velvet bow. We sensed The rabbits and the ladies sawn in half One blink away from being visible Although the quick deceiving hand was changing To flyaway dust under a ton of soil ...

Blood will have blood

Patricia Beer, 5 August 1982

... Now the Conference stands up to sing About the blood that dyed the scarlet banners, Face after flushed face lauding a vampire king. At church service this morning all the sinners Were non-political. The leaders came To Blackpool as sincere long-distance runners Away, by miles and years, from the blood of the Lamb That clotted in their youth: a tourists’ stain On arras or flagged floor, touched up by time ...


Patricia Beer, 30 August 1990

... Up at five o’clock on an August morning We carry light luggage out of the house. With heavy cases our children stoop. Their children are winged With small bright backpacks. The sky is a shop window before opening-time, Goods shadowy as trees. But in a back room And spreading, the light will soon come on. We breathe cautiously in the untried air, Talk warily at the centre of six fields ...

Midsummer in Town

Patricia Beer, 6 December 1979

... It is mid-June. In the stair-well Darkness has papered every wall. The air is cool. Clothes feel too thin. The green outside is looking in Through the opaque leaded pane. The eclipse of summer comes again. Beside me stands the black-eyed cat Whose yellow stare saw winter out. Now that the leaves have mobbed the light Her deeper eyes are stripped for night ...

E.T. phone home

Patricia Beer, 9 July 1992

... E.T. looked like my cousin, Who looked like many things wise And wonderful: certain dreams, Ancient jars in museums, Fetishes with level eyes And their native soil still on. I was a child. I loved him. We could most peacefully play Together. Our family Feared the neighbours might think we Were all balmy. He could say Three or four words. One was ‘Home ...

From Wilfred Owen 1918

Patricia Beer, 2 November 1995

... Dear Mother, now I am no more A fighting man, I warm the plates And make some bugler black the grates. We are all soldiers far from war. The foremost object in our minds Is blacking out the Scarborough lights. I turn back from the sea at nights To check the drawing-down of blinds. Dearest my Mother, I can scare The Mess by going to their dance. They heard that I was killed in France ...

Art History

Patricia Beer, 7 September 1995

... I am the man in the pink hat Who catches everybody’s eye And is not really there. In the preparatory version My hat was dowdy, I was older. Now I am ‘Who is that good-looking man?’ My brim is wide and bumptious. I am immune, though hemmed in By people working miracles, Waving their arms about In paeans of caring. I am better dressed Than goody-two-sleeves, Francis Xavier ...

The night Marlowe died

Patricia Beer, 25 February 1993

... Christopher Marlowe was a spy, it seems. His day of pleasure by the River Thames Should have brought him a handshake and a watch For faithful service. He had done as much For anyone who paid him and so had His three companions. They were really good. In those days spying was expertly done. Informers took each other’s washing in. Double agents cancelled themselves out ...
... The Grand Tour paused at Ravenna. Back in England Rain closed in from the sea and attacked the windows But the two wealthy young women Saw mosaic walls whenever they shut their eyes, Thought of those craftsmen who could never be pitied Working for God in the sun. The house they lived in was already childlike With a pleasant sense of games still to be played Past youthfulness and prime ...

Pharaoh’s Dream

Patricia Beer, 26 March 1992

... In childhood I thought of cows and dreams together Starting from Pharaoh’s dream of seven well-favoured kine Followed by seven other kine, lean-fleshed, That did eat them up. Joseph the farmer, dressy as Pharaoh, told him At once that throughout his many-coloured land Famine would succeed plenty, seven years of each. Pharaoh wrung his smooth Hands, not having considered such a meaning ...

The Lost Woman

Patricia Beer, 4 November 1982

... My mother went with no more warning Than a bright voice and a bad pain. Home from school on a June morning And where the brook goes under the lane I saw the back of a shocking white Ambulance drawing away from the gate. She never returned and I never saw Her buried. So a romance began. The ivy-woman turned into a tree That still hops away like a rainbow down The avenue as I approach ...


Patricia Beer, 9 January 1992

... My grandmother had a small shelf of books Hanging in a shadow. One of them Was Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. All the rest Were works by missionaries who had served In China. They were handsome volumes, hard With gold and angry colours, heavy with Empire. I never saw her read them but she handed Them out to me like medicine. As well As every other heathen practice, they Described footbinding ...

Two Poems

Patricia Beer, 4 February 1982

... Lost In town the storm loosened the bones of the cedar tree, Thrashed them out of its roaring green pelt And they lay clean white on the lawn next morning. ‘Worse troubles at sea’ my mother used to say About almost everything. I arrived in Devon That afternoon, and she was proved right, long after death. The storm was here too, blowing its own trumpet, Holding up the white wings of my neighbour’s geese As they fought like angels in the growing darkness ...

Two Poems

Patricia Beer, 24 February 1994

... Autumn Weeds start up out of the wall now that summer has ended. Holiday-makers already begin to turn yellow. Shadows look brave but have lost the bone-marrow of August. Introducing two recently heartbroken friends to each other How we hope they will mate, how we know that they will not. The season is over. Young blood has gone into the ground. In the church a low sun stabs away at the wings of an angel, That slipped down into darkness last April and stayed there till now, Making them move, even flap, from their warm hibernation ...

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