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An Easy Passage - Julia Copus

An Easy Passage - Julia Copus

Julia Copus - An Easy Passage


“Once she is halfway up there, crouched in her bikini

on the porch roof of her family's house, trembling,

she knows that the one thing she must not do is to think

of the narrow windowsill, the sharp

drop of the stairwell; she must keep her mind

on the friend with whom she is half in love

and who is waiting for her on the blond

gravel somewhere beneath her, keep her mind

on her and on the fact of the open window,

the flimsy, hole-punched, aluminium lever

towards which in a moment she will reach

with the length of her whole body, leaning in

to the warm flank of the house. But first she

steadies herself, still crouching, the grains of the asphalt

hot beneath her toes and fingertips,

a square of petrified beach. Her tiny breasts

rest lightly on her thighs. – What can she know

of the way the world admits us less and less

the more we grow? For now both girls seem

lit, as if from within, their hair and the gold stud

earrings in the first one's ears; for now the long, grey

eye of the street, and far away from the mother

who does not trust her daughter with a key,

the workers about their business in the drab

electroplating factory over the road,

far too, most far, from the flush-faced secretary

who, with her head full of the evening class

she plans to take, or the trip of a lifetime, looks up now

from the stirring omens of the astrology column

at a girl – thirteen if she's a day – standing

in next to nothing in the driveway opposite,

one hand flat against her stomach, one

shielding her eyes to gaze up at a pale calf,

a silver anklet and the five neat shimmering

oyster-painted toenails of an outstretched foot

which catch the sunlight briefly like the

flash of armaments before

dropping gracefully into the shade of the house.”


This poem is arguably my favourite of all time. Copus rightfully received the award for ‘Best Single Poem’ in 2010 for this coming of age poem which explores that fragility of childhood and femininity. The uplifting tone of this poem as well as its universality serve to make it one which I can read tirelessly. 

The narrative voice of the poem provides a description of her younger self being “halfway up there, crouched”, suggesting symbolically the uncomfortable and difficult nature of her “halfway” position between childhood and adulthood. The notion of uncertainty is further explored through her being “half in love” with her friend. Copus is exploring the awkward experiences of being a teenager and having a lack of definitive direction in your life. There is a shift in perspective in the poem, where the voice of Copus’ older self penetrates the poem, commentating “What can she know of the way the world admits us less and less the more we grow”, her reflective tone commenting on how harsh society can be towards young females.

The idea of youthful beauty and radiance is expressed through the semantic field of shining, bright objects. Cops uses the phrases “gold stud earring”, “silver anklet”, “shimmering oyster-painted” and “flash of armaments” to show the lively, reckless nature of her teenage years. Copus speaks from the perspective of a “flush-faced secretary”; touching on the idea of mediocrity and lack of satisfaction with her life. She uses the contrast of her electric and exciting life as a teenager against her stressful, busy life as an adult. The reference to her “tiny breasts” is an innocent comment about the natural beauty of her female body, which will be lost as she grows older and has a boring, repetitive job with an evening class as her only break from it all.

The reader gains a sense of empathy and support towards the subject of the poem, who has “neat shimmering oyster - painted toenails” which catch the sunlight like a “flash of armaments”. The use of the weapon imagery suggests that beneath the “shimmering” exterior of the young girl, there is a steely resolve which will carry her through her life. The concern we feel for her is elicited through the description of the “flimsy, hole punched aluminium lever” as well as the “petrified beach”. This suggests that if she does not take the leap from childhood in the right way, she could be in great danger. This could be a mockery of the idea that rigid societal constraints hold people back and make them feel unsuccessful if they have not got a “respected” career, when in fact if she did “fall” and not make the leap, she would still be on a “beach”, which is not a terrible place to end up in. Hence, it could be assumed that Copus believes in the rejection of societal constraints and supports the idea of achieving personal success rather than success which is approved by others. In my interpretation of this poem, I view it as an uplifting and motivational piece about femininity in the 21st Century.

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