top of page

2 poems by Helen Tookey


Sudley House, morning-room, with Keeley Halswelle, Sonning Weir (oil on canvas, c. 1882)

In the morning-room the water slides

over the weir, makes a wide

shallow fall into broken white

the pool above perfectly smooth

mirroring deep blackgreen trees

the pool below all turbulence

& the lip, the line, the place of fall

water dividing itself from itself

or coming maybe into its own.

At the far end of the upper pool

a boat-house reflecting itself

as though itself a floating thing

or as though it extended into the depths

a calm green reception room

where you might sit through eternities

until you felt in yourself the slow pull

the drift to the wide shallow lip

& the shattering.


after Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

When I started to know the truth of my life

I turned within Where else to turn?

I harboured myself I took shelter

inside my name

I was perfectly Leonora

no breeze no flicker ruffling the water

The four of us

stepping our secret minuets

& no one to know the long hours the soft sounds

in the passageway

Only that once only that day

when she said what she said

& I cracked I broke I slipped through my hands

like porcelain

& I ran

back down the winding stairs

& he followed me her young man

her poor fool

I said Don’t you know Can’t you see

and I saw nothing he knew nothing

& I was quick again Leonora

no breeze no flicker ruffling the water

& we went on the four of us

smiling shining perfectly

onto the rocks


Helen Tookey lives in Liverpool. She has published three poetry collections with Carcanet

Press, most recently In the Quaker Hotel (2022).


bottom of page