Poem, Poetry

Clair Chilvers

Lessons at the School for Young Ladies*
A maiden head the virigins trouble
Is well compared to a bubble
On a navigable river
– Soon as touch’d ‘tis gone forever
A maiden-haid: JOHN CLARE


In Scripture we came across it in a
biblical passage. What did it mean, we asked, being a maiden?
Yet another taboo not talked of even by the head,
a woman impossible to imagine being anything else. The
assumption was that we were all virgins
that we would not get into trouble
would not risk the excitement of the stolen kiss that is
likely to lead to something less well
behaved, but much more delicious, compared
to stilted conversations in full view. Then to
an expectation that we would feel shamed, a
faulty assumption; that we would not break out of the bubble
of purity at least while in her care. That we should on
no account have any opportunity to even set eyes on a
potential lover. We would encounter no navigable
path towards a liaison. We would not be swept away by any river
that would dash us into the arms of a man. Soon
enough we would take our chances as
our hearts would be touch’d
again and again by the fervour of our adolescent dreams. ‘Tis
not a time I look back on with much pleasure. Gone
though it is now, to be replaced by another iteration, and so on, forever.

*A Golden Shovel is a poetic form invented by Terrance Hayes in which the last word in each line comes from
the words of the source poem.



Clair Chilvers was a cancer scientist. She lives in Gloucestershire, UK. Her poems have been published in journals including Agenda, Allegro, Amaryllis, Apex, Artemis, Atrium, Ekphrastic Review, Impspired, Ink Sweat and Tears, Sarasvati and The Journal. www.clairchilverspoetry.co.uk

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