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The Circle of Stones

by Juliet Gowan

The Circle of Stones
The doors of that ward were open.
 One evening I made a run for it.
The bus driver took my small change
And asked "Where to?"
"Anywhere'" I said. "It doesn't matter".
We rattled through the fast, dark night
 Towards anywhere ---
And as I watched the stars through my window
 They shifted and moved,
they danced and changed their places.
They did - they changed their places.
And I felt fear - cosmic, spiraling fear"
I don't know how, but somehow I had to go back.
 (Maybe the driver? Bus drivers are known
To be sane, and a passenger's rightly supposed
 To know where he or she is going).
The doors of the ward were still open:
I was still mad.
Dancing on a shiny table with my soft blue bedsocks on.
Days began at five in the morning.
The old ones either side couldn’t dress.
So I had to help them.
Three hours to go till breakfast, pulling and squeezing
 Hunger, exhaustion, tugging and heaving.
Old people's underclothes, dim grey jumpers,
 Old people's problems,
 sad, grumbling.
When will it be breakfast?
Ritual porridge (so good for the brain)
And a leather-cold egg alone on a heavy plate.
Keep your mind on the job.
Keep your mind, since you have one,
on your title -
The Circle of Stones. So far, no circle
 (If you don't count the stars
In, or out of, their spheres.)
Well it is here - if you can see it,
And it sits in my mind, and it hurts.
And it's happened since then - and again.
I'd say it's a Vicious Circle
But made up of living people,
A lovely chance for unfettered, bright-eyed savagery
 - or what the Doctor called Group Therapy-
Therapy - that means healing: ‘Who’s to be healed?

Who's to be stoned?
Who casts the first stone?
Why, it's the Doctor!
("He who has no sin", said Jesus,
Let him begin " - and then the accusers
dropped their stones and crept away ashamed.)
 This doctor was not Jesus.

No chair for me, so the doctor plunged right in.
I had to stand for the arrows, the slings, the stones.
He must have known I’d only just lost my husband,
Danced in dangerous bedrocks on a table,
Worked three hours without food –
just for an egg.
Found not a friend to defend me;
Nothing but malice flung at me-
"She's different, talks posh, says she
 ' can't find a friend here".
If that's not a vicious circle, what is?
Am I mad? – do the stars move about?
We all did a vast and difficult jig-saw.
When I found the final piece, that
had been lost - and now it fitted;
This small event seemed to my crazy mind
 to be a symbol
that solved the Riddle of the Universe-
Squared the intractable dancing circle
making it simple as bedsocks,
 full of a dazzling, brittle joy.
"It won't last. A false dawn. It means nothing"
They said.
And put me to bed.

Juliet Gowan. 8th Feb. 2005.