By Katha Pollitt
This time round, they didn't seem so comic.
Mama is foolish, dim or dead, Papa's
a sort of genial, pampered lunatic.
No one thinks of anything but class.
Talk about rural idiocy! Imagine
a life of tea with Mrs and Miss Bates,
of fancy work and Mr Elton's sermons!
No wonder lively girls get into states –
no school, no friends. A man might dash to town
just to have his hair cut in the fashion
while she can't walk five miles on her own.
Past twenty, she conceives a modest crush on
some local stuffed shirt in a riding cloak
who's twice her age and maybe half as bright.
At least he's got some land and gets a joke –
but will her jokes survive the wedding night?
The happy end ends all. Beneath the blotter
the author slides her page, and shakes her head,
and goes to supper – Sunday's joint warmed over,
followed by whist, and family prayers, and bed.
• From The Mind/Body Problem, published by Seren (£8.99). To order a copy for £7.19 with free UK p&p go to the Guardian bookshop