Mary Anne Perkins

History’s Challenge

Speak up, you brave historians.
What have you made of me? – a sop
to politics, a flag to wave
for war’s lost causes, a curious leafpressed under centuries of books.
Absurd! You are the falling leaves.

I am the tree – root, trunk and branch,
the source of myth and memory,
each child’s discovery that time
did not begin with its own birth.
Who gave you the right to take my name

as tourist-bait for run-down towns
and bloody fantasies? The past
you parody is your own script,
re-written during performance.
This obsession with dates and dynasties

has nothing to do with me;
nor has the backward look that turned
Lot’s wife to salt, or the glance that took
Eurydice from Orpheus.
How slow you are to learn! I am

the game you play on God’s best carpet.
Think how it might have looked
had you first removed your boots.

Mary Anne Perkins, a retired historian of ideas, moved to North Tyneside from London in 2011. She enjoys readings and workshops within the local area and at Newcastle University’s Centre for the Litery Arts. Her collection, Shadow-Play, won the Indigo Dreams Summer 
Collection competition (2009) and was published as a result. She had three poems shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2007, 2010), was a runner-up in the Fish Publishing Poetry Prize (2008) and commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Competition (2010) and in 
the Basil Bunting Awards (2013).