The Golden Age
A woman whose name escapes me
was my ultimate role model growing up.
What was her name? You know. You know
who I’m talking about. Whatsherface, with the hair.
Always wore a cravat. Spat olive pits
into a miniscule silver snuff box. You know.
Her catchphrase was “If it ain’t broke
I’m not interested.” You know who I mean.
Bombshell. Sang that famous song.
‘Forkful of Nothing’ with the Withering Brothers.
Paris. Lots of stuff to do with Paris. Starred
in that sexy movie with Sandra Bee Deloyne,
really controversial at the time, they played
cross-dressing gravediggers who both end up
pregnant by rival dictators. You know the one.
Coined the phrase ‘Nope.’
She was married to that gorgeous guy
who chopped his head off accidentally
whilst fixing a ceiling fan. Her father
burnt to death after throwing a Molotov cocktail
at a trampoline. Come on. She built the world’s most
impossible hedge maze, all her gardeners
disappeared. Had a tiny dog called Handbag,
kept her house keys in his stomach. In 1916
she met Lenin in a coffee shop in Zurich
and came up with the entire plan for Red October.
You must remember her. She invented
the candy necklace. Liked to pose for photos
with an almost imperceptible trickle of blood
dripping from her right lobe like an earring.
It was political. No? Only wore one sock?
Ran for sheriff in Roswell, New Mexico?
Called Picasso a cunt? Spend time in jail
for illegal importation of sealskin?
Her vagina died like a tooth, turned completely black
like a rose dipped in tar? Set up twenty-three
orphanages in Senegal called the…
‘Whatshername Foundation’ – goddammit!
She threw an entire hayrick at Hitler during a rally.
To this day no one knows how she managed to a)
arrive at the rally with a hayrick and b) single-handedly
throw it from two hundred yards away.
She travelled solo by tandem bike. Only ate stale bread.
Went mad in a secluded condo in Toleto,
snorted a suitcase of benzocaine through
the snapped-off trunk of a porcelain elephant.
You must know who I’m talking about!
Joined a punk nunnery called ‘The Sisters of
Ulterior Motive’. Wrote a book about
the psychic healing properties of peanut butter.
Caught herpes from a mountain lion.
Had an illicit thirty-year love affair with the novelist
and antique dildo enthusiast Greta Turner-Blake.
Played scrabble with Trotsky during his exile.
First woman to play the hurdy-gurdy on national television.
First woman to say ‘fuck’ in a zoo.
Looked great in a straw hat.
Ushered in the dawn of a new era.
I’ve got a postcard with her face on it
somewhere in this drawer.
This poem was written as a commission for Dead [Women] Poets as part of 2020 tour, in response to the dead woman poet Anna Wickham. It is also published in Caroline's most recent book of poems, The Air Year (2020), with Carcanet press. You can hear Caroline read the poem and resurrect Anna Wickham as part of our February 2020 event in Norwich, in our podcast recorded by @patrickwiddess of the Poetry Non Stop Podcast.