As part of an ongoing series which requires research into the techniques and history of needlework I came across Opus Anglicanum. Medieval England was the time and place which produced embroideries of such exquisite beauty and craft that England became the eponymous hero of sacred and secular embellishment.
As I began working on the notes, the sifting and shifting towards a finished text, an extraordinary event happened: Dr David Kelly the Iraq weapons inspector and expert on biological and chemical weapons committed suicide. Pink pink pink / go the shears…
The eschewing Hutton Inquiry into the doctor's death would throw up daily revelations on the duplicitous fabrications and hoodwinking that formed the British Government's pretext for invading Iraq. The text took on a new dynamic.
This method of allowing current affairs to insinuate into my text is not new but this was such an unlikely coupling. Medieval decorative craftwork became stained by present day power spooks stalking the halls of Downing Street and Whitehall. The lavish expense of Queen's Golden Jubilee year followed by one of the most ignominious episodes in British political history would leave many British citizens reeling with powerlessness and alienation.
A reference that may be lost to readers outside the U.K. concerns Tony Blair's fanatical and very public craving that he makes his mark on history. On the subject of Iraq it over-reached into psychosis. He not only personified history but dictated to it, ‘History will be my judge' implying history would find him innocent. For Blair the awful and guilt-ridden present of his illegal ‘war' took refuge in a future forgiving history. It was an astounding and alarming feat of mental (pun intended) time travel which rendered the British electorate conveniently dead ipso facto totally irrelevant. But the death of Dr Kelly lay in wait in the wings. Dong/The history drowns.
From its original accolade for the production of beautiful artefacts Opus Anglicanum takes on new and darker connotation and the poem becomes a lament: What beauty we unravelled .
taunts sewn daily
A cast shedding envy
what beauty we unravelled
With every fibre of spin
a metre of petersham
stuckup on thorn hedge
Intelligence born in sour light
‘we have not yet found shiny
threads get knotted
Dong! The history drowns.
Bio: Geraldine Monk's Noctivagations: a collection of poems and other texts was published by West House Books in 2001. Her Selected Poems was brought out in 2003 by Salt Publications.