On the blotter, splotched, an envelope lies slit by sun
or taken with the old brass paper-knife,
an interruption in the gloom.
Sent or received, the letter – who, what, to whom?
I want to read her secret life.
The lid is off a heavy jar of spider leggy ink.
I’ve watched her free the spiders when she writes
her wiry black left handed script. They run amok
across the sheets.
We know the correspondence she sends out
to family, her many letters to the press,
much less about the yellow papers tied with binding tape
she locks up in the chest.
Rifling for a treasury tag or bulldog clip
I’ve tried the drawers. I’ve seen the scarlet Silvine book
complete with carbon leaves
page after tattooed page, with dates, the log
she keeps – I learn eventually – of her rejection slips.
Kate Miller is an English poet with one collection to her name, The Observances (Oxford Poets 2015). Her forthcoming collection draws on the unpublished writings of Muriel Jardine, born in India in 1896, grand, great and great great-grandmother to a new generation of Australians.