Sunday 9 October 2022

Her First Ball - Fleur Adcock published in 'The Spectator', 4 October 2008

Her First Ball - Fleur Adcock

For the school dance I wore a circular skirt --
full length, and a full-circle swirl of apple green;
I bought the pattern; my mother made the frock.

But what to do with my hair: so little-girlish,
too long? Auntie Phil came up with a green snood
and an Alice-band on which (her brainwave)

she pinned sprigs of daphne -- most waxen-petalled,
extravagantly-scented of real flowers,
from the bush by our door -- to intoxicate,

as it turned out, my classmate Dell's very tall
brother Ken, who danced with me all evening,
his nose hovering above the honeyed wafts.

After my friends' lunchtime coaching in the gym
I managed the quicksteps and foxtrots all right,
even in gold sandals (we all wore gold sandals).

As for underneath, I'd been given no option:
Phil and my mother had tracked down in some shop
a pair of kneelength, scratchy woollen drawers

to protect my kidneys from chills, they insisted.
I was too naive to see at the time
what it was they really wanted to guard.

published in 'The Spectator' 4 October 2008

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