My writing samples

Three excerpts from Cecily's writings

In A Graveyard of Settlers & Braves (extract)

Moses Napoleon & the Queen of Swedenberg (extract)

A View of Ronda from La Casa de la Virgen de la Cabeza

In A Graveyard of Settlers & Braves

(an extract from an early long short story)

It was on the borders of New Jersey and Pennsylvania that Madeleine Shaw first discovered a burial ground that had no barrier between the living and the dead.

Circling Manhattan on their way from Boston to Gettysburg she'd looked out of the car window to wave a last distant goodbye to the city she'd first put down in, and where more than any place on her trip so far she'd felt at home; and had seen instead a graveyard. At least that was how it had appeared to her from the far side of the Hudson river.

"Tombstones!" she shouted pointing at the sky scrapers no more than three feet high.

"Now then, Maddy!" her sister Joy warned without bothering to look up from her log book. "I suppose the next thing will be that they're surrounded by the river Lethe, huh? You want to bet?" But it was only an illusion not worth a hot dog and Maddy knew it.

Whereas . this was the real thing. Burial stones without a separating wall or gate on either side of the twelve lane highway. And overhead, as their old Chevrolet sped under a wide arch, on gay plastic letters hanging down:

"Welcome to the New World Auditorium"

Only how could she be sure, when she was still capable of mistaking paper fluttering in the gutter for a run over cat.

Maddy turned to her sister: "Does Kurt have family buried here?" she whispered, as if she might wake one of them.

"No, darlin'" Joy laughed. "This is our route."

Joy's new American accent and mispronunciation of 'route' was beginning to irritate Maddy, since she herself found it hard to let go of old habits or anything else belonging to the past. What made her let it go today with only a sigh, was the shock of their present location: "The New World Auditorium," she said to herself, and she said it again out loud to make sure it wasn't a dream.

Maddy had a sudden urge to reach forward and jerk the driver's golf cap, giver her American nephews a dig to sit up and take notice. But they were intent on their walkmans and would only laugh at her in the same sophisticated was as they had last week when she'd asked a yellow cab drier to stop between 42nd street and Broadway so she could catch a glimpse of the huge red sun ball lowering itself between slits in the sky scraper blocks.

Miniature blocks now, an endless myriad of slabs and crosses beyond the sealed pane. They were in the first lane, so close she could just make out some of the roll call flashing past. Jessop . Alvarez . Pearlman . Ming . Corrigan . Krueger . Alberti . McAlpine . Maddy blinked and rubbed her eyes.

Abreast of them, going forward in a neat line of six, like the six in front and behind, and those too far ahead or at the rear for her to see clearly, were the Buicks and Fords, the Cadillac saloons and the smart Mercedes, among a crowd of smaller German and Japanese models. And on the far side, rushing towards them, also abreast in front, and behind, six of the same.

But what struck Madeleine was not so much the immense width of the highway, nor the huge uniform mass moving both ways along it, but that not one passenger in sight was looking out or appeared to find their location or the name of it in any way strange.

Maddy's stomach began to rumble. Weren't they supposed to be headed for some 'eats' for Christ's sake! She could wait to visit what the Americans politely called 'the rest room,' though where they kept the sleeping bags or the bunks, she had no idea. The sight of liquid emptying out of a Coke bottle into one of the twins mouths only made matters worse. So . "What the hell are we doing in the middle of a graveyard!" she asked suddenly, trying for the new authoritative tone her doctor had recommended she try whenever she was feeling weak or small . and to her surprise they all looked up.

"You o.k. darlin'" Joy's arm around her. "cause we can't stop."

"Yes . fine. Only how many more miles to the border?"

"Only sixty."

"Sixty more!" She who had not travelled six for years without being thrown into a panic.

"It won't take long." Joy patted her sister's hand encouragingly: "Our highways are better than yours." And then: "Go on, admit it you old fraud. You've enjoyed every minute." For as long as Joy lived, she would never forget the expression on her sister Maddy's face when they'd first collected her for Kennedy Airport; devouring everyone and everything beyond the pane like a lunatic released from a long incarceration. Joy suppressed a sob, remembering her father's letters those first years in The States. She squeezed Maddy tighter. "You're doin' fine, hon. Mummy and Daddy would be so proud of you, God rest them."

"If Madeleine conks out now," Kurt said, covering for his wife, and winking at Maddy through the mirror, "she won't see her Brave." He took a had off the wheel and fluttered his fingers at the back of his head to indicate feathers.

"Gawd, Dad! Not that Indian stuff again!" Long skinny legs leaping about in the seat, knocking into Maddy's. "I've had it!"

"Luth! Keep still!" Joy poked her son. "Know how many pairs of pantyhose I've gotten through since we left St. Paul?"

"But Mum, it's my turn up front with Dad. I'm sick of being a sardine between two women!"

"Then get outa the can, krut!" from the twin beside Kurt.

"Speak nicely to your brother, Willie," the mother intervened.

"But Mom, he's kickin' me through the seat!"



"Down!" Maddy said in a weak voice, reaching for the window handle. But Joy was there before her.

"Sorry, darling", Joy said at the same time as swiping a twin. "Open windows cut of the air."

"Want it on higher, Mad?" Kurt indicated the air-conditioning knob on the switchboard. "You like it real cool, huh?"

Maddy who already had a sore throat and cough from the air-conditioning in the motel, didn't answer. She was beginning to feel like Blanche de Bois, the visiting sister in 'Streetcar.' Any minute she'd open her mouth and scream.

"Lay your head on my shoulder, hon and shut your eyes," Joy told her. "The scenery will be prettier soon. Luth Plotecher! Legs on the floor, please. You're not a monkey."

"Who says?" Kurt scratched his head and switched the radio station from Country and Western to another programme, a 'phone in' on sex, and quickly back again to Country and Western. He coughed and reaching down popped a can of coke. "As I was saying, Madeleine, sure am glad you hitched your London tepee to our here wagon. Pale face pow-wow with Indian chief soon. Smoke peace pipe. Yippee!"

"Dad should be in kindergarten, huh Aunt Middy?" The air model with plenty of room in front swung around to display his sixth new parting of the day.

"All I said, Kurt," Maddy protested, leaning back and raising her mouth towards the top of the car in the hope of breathing in some secretly hidden natural air stream was "I wouldn't mind seeing some American Indians while I'm over here, ok? I mean, if we've got to drive through graveyards all the way, why in heaven's name can't we look for some Indian ones?" Adding with some of the old defiance she was once famous for: "Or are Indian cemeteries off bounds for tourists?"

A long silence, in which Maddy watched Joy, defender of her new flag, tighten her lips, so that she looked the spit-and-image of their father, Major Shaw, when he tried to ignore Maddy's uncontrollable barbs about his business in Northern Ireland.

Silence. Kurt, delightedly unwrapping a piece of gum with a wicked grin; the hair model in the comfort of the front effecting his seventh parting.

It was left to the dumb-bell next to her in the back to reply: "Jeeees, Aunt Maddy, what d'ye mean look? We don't have to look! This whole God damn country is an Indian graveyard, for Christ's sake!"

Cecily Bomberg

An extract from:

'Moses Napoleon and the Queen of Swedenberg'

(the play won one of twelve places out of three thousand entries)

A retired couple, Moses and Maeve, once powerful in the holidays abroad industry, but now through Moses' bad health, are living quietly in in an isolated seaside villa. They have invited their vulnerable daughter, recently out of hospital, to spend Christmas with them. The father and daughter, unable to communicate, fear being left in a room alone while the mother prepares the festive dinner; but she insists, asking Moses to try to get to know her before it's too late. But Moses has no idea what to say to her.


Seen our turkey yet?


Pauline nods and quickly rises to escape.


Don't go. Lately I get lonely on my own.


Pauline waits by the door.


Ever feel you were on the rim of a circle looking in at yourself? I bloody have. (slaps air) That reminds me, the funniest thing happened to me yesterday bring the turkey home. Nearly knocked me into the next world. I’m riding along nice and easy with the bird on my knee, when I look up suddenly, and there in the seat in front is something so… er… so foreign… I couldn’t put a name to it. Yet neither could I look away, know what I mean?


Pauline turns and looks at him.


I mean, there it was, stuck grotesquely on to the side of a man’s head in broad daylight. Well, I mean, I know a danger sign when I see one, and that was some danger sign, childeen. Did I break out in a sweat! I tell you, so obscene a thing was it that I’m up and off that bus faster than lightning.


Pauline moves closer.


Only thing was, I’d dropped the bloody bird! And all the time, what do You think it was? (pauses) An ear. Only a bloody ear. And I couldn’t Identify it. What do you know!


Pauline is now riveted. Moses pours himself a drink.


‘Course unfortunately I’d done my leg. See? (lifts trouser leg) So, here I am in an unknown Cornish lane with the wind howling and the rain coming down, and no Christmas dinner. But the conductor was a decent sort. I’d given him a few tips on the National. He backed the bus all the way to where I was standing and put the bird back in my arms. Of course, he tried to get me back on the bus. I mean, I was still a stop from my own, for Christ’s sake, and the rain… But here’s the strange thing… do you think I could get back on again? Not on your life. Though by then I’d identified the object. I can tell you, childeen, that ear on the head of a Cornish farmer took the wind of your old man’s sails. Know what I mean?


(slowly) Things you've know… all our life… but taken for granted… Until one day they… they come out. Take on a… a strange new life of their own… out of all… proportion. Like a… like a cartoon.


You know! We're talking the same language. What do you know!




(blurts) I've seen… air.


Air? You can't see air.


I saw it.


Air’s invisible.


It was visible.


Naw, you got it wrong, childeen.  Air can’t be seen.


I tell you, it can. Noisy, dark atoms… darting about with such a… A frightening buzz… as if…


(over her) /. Naw, what happened to me was a simple mistake. And yet I ask myself how. /


(over him) /… some dangerous substance that had been sealed in…/


(over her)/… the organ with which we receive our mother’s first croon… birdsong… the beauty of a Shelly or a Beethoven and… /


(over him) /… and laying in wait had… suddenly… unleashed itself to devour… /


(over her) /… the greatest of all gifts… /


(over him) /… all life… all air… the entire atmosphere… /


/… though which we communicate… could for a moment… become So unrecognisable that I should fail to identify… a human ear. (pause)
You were saying, childeen?


It came towards me… an army of noisy arrowheads… bouncing off my Skin … till my whole body tingled… with pain.




I’ve tried to relive that day… to understand the unreal thing that was happening… the moment the world… came out


Came out?  What are you talking about? I’m talking about a mistake.


Tried to pin-point… the exact moment before…


Before what?  Get to the point.


It… it was my last term at the convent. That day Rev. Mother allowed me out to post a letter… to you… somewhere abroad. But a… a woman on the edge of the woods made me… Stop. Her child had fallen and she was… kneeling over it… cradling and rocking… cradling… and rocking. Crooning in a language I’d never before heard and so couldn’t… recognise.


Now you’re talking!  Now I understand what you’re at.  How my mother could croon.


It was almost as if… they’d grown into each other… become one… unaware of everything outside of them.


That’s it! That was my mother and me. Such songs she sang. I remember every word and I wasn’t yet seven when she… (stifles a sob)  One day I want you to come and say to me: ‘Moses, tell me about your mother, ’because you never have. You never have. And she was an angel… an angel. But suddenly… and overnight she… /


Moses starts to hum a Jewish lullaby


At that moment nature became… raw… a knife.


Overnight… I can tell you, childeen, from her home to the board home was the equivalent of setting sail from Tahiti and arriving in bloody Sparta. (Moses continues to hum)


The whole known world had exploded. The grass began to… to breath.  I mean… visibly… as we breathe… every blade… /


(over her) /… What’s that, childeen?


(over him) /… Every bare… raw… branch… breathed. I’d never seen grass so green… as the grass was that day… or the sky as… stark white.


(to himself/in reverie)  What do you know.


In that single moment… the world had suddenly grown… too bright to bear.


Wasn’t that a strange happening?


They began to collude… whisper… but in a language so… alien… so dangerous… /


(over her)  And all the time it was only an ear …/


(over him) Even the letter box nearby the mother and child… whispered… /


A bloody common-a-gardener ear! What do you know? Aye?
(pause)  You were saying?

Cecily Bomberg 1992

A View of Ronda from La Casa de la Virgen de la Cabeza

(For Kitty who was unable to be present. And for David Bomberg's old students, now artists, who came to Spain for his Ronda exhibition, October, 2004, and spent a day drawing & painting on a mountain ledge outside David and Lillian's villa.)

And the silence is broken
by the scratching of charcoal
feet shuffling dust
dogs howling
and on the opposite side of the canyon—
above the great Gorge
and the bridge that divides
the old Moorish town from the new—
the Angelus ringing out an Ave Maria
over a revved up engine
then silence again
feet shuffling dust
and charcoal scratching.

Fifty years ago they were young men
old now- one a venerable woman
leant over her pastel
these are the faithful few come to pay homage
these are the disciples who- the chips down—
did not deny him when the cock crowed three times.
Young blood too—a lad in his third year
near a trusted follower.

They tear at the scorched earth
cut deep into rock
into the steep mass
the Moorish pathways
calling out the spirit
drawing out shadow and light
hundreds of feet above the sloping olive groves
little dots in a Pissaro

Till the strength sapped from the day
the merciless landscape is dragged onto each canvas
under a still blazing Andalusian sun
where a solitary black Stallion
its rib cage sticking out
stands baking in a treeless waterless space
stands so staunchly still
as if it knew it must surrender
give itself up to this sacrifice.

Published in AMBIT / Autumn 2006

Cecily Deirdre Bomberg 2004