For the last year or so, my hands have been very full. I've been completing my novel while cracking on with my full time job and raising four children. The good thing is that these summer holidays, for the first time in years, I've had a little time on my hands, time which I have devoted to new writing.
This has been very exciting for me because I'm writing poetry again, after a three-year drought! In all those years, it was fiction, fleshing things out, sharpening the eye and all that business. Now, at last, I can compress my thoughts into a compact piece. I have found this truly liberating!
Over the next few weeks, I will be posting some of my new poems here and on my website. I will also be sharing the publication details of my novel with you.
Anyway, I would like to share one of my poems with you. I would love to hear your comments.
(Who is not forgotten)
I remember the ease with which
I stride into St Mary’s,
bosom full. Your sister, newly weaned,
clings to my hip.
Twice I’ve been there so I am unafraid.
‘An old hand,’ I call myself.
Stroke my expanding stomach
with fondness. This one will be my prince.
In the waiting room, I wince,
watch other women strain
to balance wombs on benches,
lest waters drain away.
A ray of light baptises us, burns our necks.
A cheery nurse muddles my name;
a mother’s name ought to be heavy
on the common, unholy tongue. I follow.
The table is green. On it, a soft paper sheet uncurls
like a worn-out wave at dusk. I lie belly up.
Glub glub, farts the gel.
The young doctor smears it belly down.
The ray of light is back. Its wand
shines a halo on the screen.
Shadows swim round the room.
I nearly miss the doctor’s wrinkled brow.
Is there something wrong? I ask.
I read her thoughts like a new scroll:
What should I tell her; how did she guess?
Yes, she says, and leaves me scrambling for her tailcoat.
Frozen, I lift to my eyes to the hallowed screen.
What could be wrong with my blue-blooded ball?
Another doctor marches in. She is older,
has a face like rubber and two honest chins.
It doesn’t take her long to find my prince’s cracks,
his imperfections. She tells me
his nerves will never ripen
and his brain is already shrivelled like a rotten nut.
I don’t wait to hear the rest of it:
how it came to be or what made him so.
Instead I fall to the hard, pitiless floor,
splayed out and twisted — an over-beaten rug.
They lead me to a small, windowless room.
A plastic vase adorned with dusty flowers.
An empty bookshelf. A large, luxurious sofa.
Tissues for tears. I wipe away the hours.
Here, they tell me the things I won’t believe:
that he will be born still, if born at all,
that he will be unsightly, ungainly, unprincely,
that it will be better to scratch him from my womb.
How little they know me, I think,
through deep-belly sighs and red, unseeing eyes.
I clutch my belly so my palms form a shield.
Perhaps they will forget he is there and let him be.
In the car, I am beside myself,
un-comfortable and desperate for someone
to blame, someone to name,
someone to feel as torn, as insane.
Weeks wonder by. I drag myself through streets,
questioning female forms, wary of open faces.
I don’t smile back. There’s a pink slip in my bag:
my appointment card —my menstrual rag, my price tag.
I don’t know that my body goes to the ward with me
but two will go and only one will return.
I feel like Abraham dragging Isaac at the altar,
only I won’t lay my prince on leaves and dry twigs.
The nurses are a transparent white.
Archangels of death, they swoop in, read notes,
rub the back my of quivering limbs.
Breath out, breathe in, they sing.
I tell the consultant I want to be asleep
but he says I’m too far gone.
I must push my prince into the world.
O empty arms! O wasted teat!
An archangel hands me a large purple pill.
Swallow it quickly, she whispers.
I place it on my tongue. It is poison
to stop my prince’s pulse.
Next, she digs a drip into my arm.
Veins narrow, fists tighten.
Blood battles bag. My body will not give in.
Eyes split and spill onto the pillow.
You will feel a heaviness when it comes, she says.
Here’s a bedpan and here’s a lid.
I cannot bear the way she refers to him. It!
Like he’s nothing but a hefty shit.
Soon, pain takes me hostage.
My stomach is cuffed, thighs bound together.
My prince does not want to leave my warmth;
I don’t want my warmth to leave my prince.
A weight drops from my womb.
I summon all strength and squat
over the bedpan. He falls from me like a coffin.
I replace the lid —graveside dust.
I can’t bear to watch her look at him.
She asks if I would like to bury him.
I mumble something about donation to medical science.
There isn’t a spot in the garden that’s worthy of him.
Instead, let him be enthroned in a crystal jar,
be revered and worshipped like a fallen star.
And let this be inscribed with a platinum pen:
‘To be collected by mother.’ Son, till then.