2 poems by Elizabeth Jane Timms

2 Poems by Elizabeth Jane Timms

A Trunk of Old Letters
In the attic lay the black leather trunk, like a casket
For the letters that lay forgotten.
And opening it, I heard a crowd of mingled voices,
Young and old – ladies and gentlemen, children and grandmothers
All talking at once in voices of joy, sorrow and hope.
All reading aloud their long ago written words,
Alive in a world when the ink was still wet,
When the seal was not yet dry,
When the quill was just set down upon the desk.
They belonged to that world, they leapt over the puddles of candle wax
Upon the pages – chattered on about the births of children,
The advent of the new century, the last Christmas and the new carriage.
They were owned by the world of letters.
On Rome
I did fly like a gray dove over the immortal roofs of Rome,
As my imagination leapt from chapels to churches,
Across streets and squares to roost upon an ancient pillar –
The Roman sunlight touched me in the red mist of morning,
And I became instantly old –
Looking at the city then, I turned to stone.
Into a statue to stand forever with my eyes fixed on this place.
I shall leap then across Rome from pillar to pillar,
From dome to dome.
Night filled the ancient sites then,
And the shadows of your centurions
Marched victorious under your arches in the moonlight,
And the Forum’s scattered pillars
Lay like the abandoned bones of its Caesars.
Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian, freelance writer, research professional and poet, based in Oxford. She is a member of the Oxford Writers’ Circle and the University of Oxford Poetry Society. She writes for journals, magazines, newsletters and the web. She divides her time between Oxford and London.

2 poems by Elizabeth Jane Timms

New Year 1800 (on reading George Eliot)
New Year’s Eve came to the churchyard, opened the little wooden gate.
Not a single name could be read here – only the old stone path bore
The faint traces of faithful boots, hymns bearing the drops of candle wax.
The graves were covered in deep snow, lives fast asleep in the last century.
Only the black of the church tower stood against the sky,
But in the tower burned a little light,
The drunken bell ringers were ringing in the New Year by the light
Of a dying lantern. Pulling the old threadbare ropes in their silken breeches
And black shoes in which they had danced a quadrille only an hour earlier.
The silent landscape sparkled with snow and the New Year
Staggered in the church door, its coat dripping in the doorway.
Having made its way struggling over the fields,
Hobbling up the old stone path.
And the bell ringers carried on ringing, with their tankards of ale and port
Before falling asleep into deep slumber,
The robes still in their hands,
The empty tankards at their side.
And in the distant night, came the strains of a violin.
On the Book
The heavy lid of the book opened, the leather cover
Like a great mahogany door – and I went inside.
Into the book’s vellum world,
Amidst yellowed pages, to find characters asleep
Within their folds, to rub their eyes at my approach.
But in the dark of the oak paneled library, one lamp
Burned low upon a single desk.
The key had been turned in the great lock,
And the books were alone with themselves.
Then all the covers of the books opened like leather doors,
The characters rushed out from the paper –
Glad to leave the prisons of their old pages.
Emerged from the streets of written words,
And dangled their legs over the edge of the shelves.
Nodding ladies, children playing with hoops,
Old sailors, gentlemen in hackney caps with gold topped canes.
The bride on the top shelf waiting for her bridegroom,
But she had to await her fate until the bookmark moved.
One widow sobbed on a book rest and remembered those she had loved.
The world of characters had come alive until the key turned,
And they had to rush back into the books.
elizabeth 2
Elizabeth Jane Timms is a historian, freelance writer and poet, based in Oxford. She writes for an academic journal on royalty as well as for magazines, journals and the web.