Matron and Eve

Matron and Eve by Elizabeth Trew

At boarding school, aged nine, I was sent to the sick bay
for not taking my medicine. I kicked and screamed,
nearly knocked Matron’s glasses off
while I stood in line for our Syrup of Figs.
To keep girls like us regular and good.

“Bad girl!” said Matron, tucking me in to the iron bed.
Matron wore white. A stiff belt nipped her waist.
Silver scissors peeped from her pocket,
grey curls from her cap. She checked my fever,
left a handful of pills (which I hid) and a glass of water.

Alone all day I stared at the grey-white walls,
counted the squares on the whiteboard ceiling.
White mosquito nets hung above white beds.
I listened to a gardener singing in Shona,
listened to the cleaners calling each other.

Tropical light became tropical night.
Footsteps came and went. A girl struggled to breathe
from an asthma attack. Another girl had a bilious attack.
I heard matron check a girl with a murmuring heart,
heard a girl ask for sanitary pads.

“Your mother is here,” announced Matron one day.
My mother glided in, cast a loving eye towards her little one,
held out her soft, manicured hand to matron.
“How do you do. Please call me Eve. You must come to tea,”
“I’d love to see your home,” smiled Matron, turning red.

My mother came to visit next day, and the next.
I felt her lips on my cheek, sniffed her sweet perfume.
She asked matron to tea again, and again.
“Yes, Eve,” muttered matron under her breath.
Matron smelt of carbolic soap.

On her next visit my mother held out an apple.
“Present from the gardener. Isn’t it big?”
The apple was shiny red and ready to eat.
“What a treat! She can eat it for supper”,
Matron said.

That evening Matron came by to check my pulse
and give me pills, when a pill rolled out, and then another.
“What a disgrace!” she cried, seeing my hoard of pills
under the pillow. “No supper tonight, my girl,” she snapped,
taking the apple away.

I burrowed deep in the bed that night,
sobbed into my white cocoon.
I cried for my mother at home,
for the gardener, who could whistle for snakes,
for the sapele climbing tree and my red hen.

I never knew what became of my apple.
Perhaps Matron ate it or gave it to someone.
Perhaps it turned bad or withered away.
“Poor thing”, sighed Eve.
“What does she know of love,”

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12 thoughts on “Matron and Eve

  1. Alison Smith

    I spent my entire shcool career in boarding schools, so REALLY related to this one ! You got it exactly right.

  2. This is interesting….I like the way you took on this…In the end, it was just your love for the apple…and the other factors in the scene were factors that aided and abated the love…as well as take it away. Nice write.

    Cheers!

  3. Hi, I’m taking part in Jingle’s thursday-poets-rally and am here to read your pages and to extend encouragement and my very best wishes and hopes for your writing success! 🙂

    Oh how magnificent your poem is! It seemingly starts as a story then morphs into a reality that looks out of each sentence. I was hooked from the start. I could not even pause, being mesmerised by the easy manner, the understated way, the magnetic pull of all that was unfolding. If you are not a professional writer already then you should be. Your style, your manner, the way you unfolded them loneliness, the longing, the almost despair of the child, the way you brought out the Gorgon disguised as matron, the way you introduced the languid vacant actress who bore the guise of a mother (but forgive me if this is a ‘rea’l telling for I do not intend to disrespect your mother, it is the character in this story that i see and feel, so cogent is your descriptive power). And there is an underlying message so cleverly hidden in all of your erudite writing. Brilliant!

    The last part seals the ending:

    “I burrowed deep in the bed that night,
    sobbed into my white cocoon.
    I cried for my mother at home,
    for the gardener, who could whistle for snakes,
    for the sapele climbing tree and my red hen.

    I never knew what became of my apple.
    Perhaps Matron ate it or gave it to someone.
    Perhaps it turned bad or withered away.
    “Poor thing”, sighed Eve.
    “What does she know of love,” ”

    ps: The below mentioned links will take you separately to Jingle’s page and to my own page where you can see my own poetry. Hope you like what you see there!

    John
    Poet Traveler
    http://jingleyanqiu.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/thursday-poets-rally-week-24-july-1-7-2010/

    http://poettraveler.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/dominica-i-shall-not-weep/

  4. I always wondered how boarding school was supposed to be a good thing. It always seemed an easy way for people to dump their kids on people who don’t like kids. At least this is the way it has always looked to someone who has never been in one. I always thought they were sad places like mental hospitals. Thanks for sharing, very poignant, alan

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