Postpartum

Skin stretched, stitched, sore.
Breasts tender, engorged.
Belly empty,
while organs
rearrange themselves.

Oh travel weary vessel,
victorious glorious
carrier of new life.
Precious cargo,
wrenched away, disgorged.

As fluids leak
and muscles scream,
dare I celebrate these scars?
Adorn these wobbles
with joy?

Pregnancy robbed me of reason,
birth affirmed my strength.
Body broken and beautiful.

Otters

I remember
your hand in mine
as we scrambled over
slippery Scottish rocks.
Pulling you up past
ochre seaweed and barnacles
salt wind searing cheeks.
You were so brave.
Little legs leaping
to keep up.
You won’t remember
but we took on the world
that day,
alone against
brooding sky and sea.
Now your legs are so
much longer than mine.
But somehow
still
you’ll always be
my little brother
hand in hand
searching for sea otters



My little brother gets married this weekend. I’m so proud of him – all he has done and the person he has become. This one is for him.

Red shoes

“Too much information”
you said
when I asked if anyone
had a tampon.
I beg to differ,
i’d say you don’t
have enough.
I haven’t told you
about lying on toilet floors
as endometriosis tears
my insides out.
I haven’t described
what it feels like
to hurtle through
waves of hormone mood swings
every month and still
keep the show on the road.
I haven’t explained
what it means to be
the one to grow a child
then push it out
through my vagina headfirst
to greet the world.
Have you seen what
my body has done,
achieved, made?
How fucking dare you
imply my monthly blood
is a shame-soaked secret?

But its ok.

If you don’t want
me to ask for
a tampon
maybe i’ll just
bleed on your shoes.

The hole you left

You came
like a bolt
into my womb
and into my heart.
And then my body
and my world
fell down.

You were so loved
for that short time
that I carried you.

A paper cut-out
of a life
full of future.
Crumpled,
discarded.
As a fluttered heartbeat
…..stops…..
and bloody pulp
gets flushed away.

My body throbs
with your loss,
achingly knowing
you are not there.

This is grief
without the memories
to anchor back to.
Only the space
where your tiny form
would have
parted the air
is gone.

I can still taste the
place you would
have been.

In my plans.

In my dreams.

In my arms.

I wrote most of this poem after having a miscarriage over 5 years ago and it’s now ready to be sent into the world. I am now at peace with our loss, and feel unbelievably blessed to have my husband and two boys. But I feel it’s important to be honest about what our unborn baby meant to me, and how it felt for the promise of that new life to be wrenched away. Miscarriage is very common, but I feel it is too rarely talked about.

Wounded hornet

I did not know I had hate in me
till you pulled it out.
Like a fish being wrenched
from the throat of a bird.

But you were sick
where was my pity?
I searched for it among the cracks
in the pavement.

But I could not find it.

I spread my wings wide
over my babies and hissed,
hating what you had
turned me into.

Sometimes there are moments that make you question the person you thought you were. Where a challenging situation hits at the glue that holds you together, and everything becomes wobbly. This is about one of those times a few years ago.

Gloriously older

Why
should I fear
leaving young womanhood
behind
when all around me
stand older women
glorious as trees
that have held firm
laughing through storms.
Did I see
how much of the sky
you held up for me
as I waltzed beneath
your canopy?
I see you now
all around me like
magnificent
brass pots of life.
Light
reverberating off
every dent,
pouring through
every crack.
Bathing me in warmth.
I know the path will
be glorious.
You have shown me
the way.

This poem is for the many, many women older than me who inspire me on a daily basis. This is for all of you. Thank you for your example. Your grace. Your courage. Your love. And thank you for showing me how to boss this life thing.

Standing on the bench

Three years old
and arms reached high
touching the sky
on Selsley common.


I wrote this in the summer of 2020, as we were emerging from the first lockdown. Loved ones had died and been born without us being there. But over that beautiful, hard summer, there were also quiet moments of joy. Just over a year later my boys were back on the bench, a year older but still reaching for the sky.

Granny Els

Be free.
We are here
to look after
those you love.

Last breath
you are gone.
A song
to lift you
on your way.

Open the window
the sun has come out.
Snatches of your life
speak to me now.

Plaits round the head
of a little Dutch girl.
A quiet room
with a ticking clock.
One dress for a
newly-wed doctors wife
who doesn’t know
how to make tea.

One lost child
in a hospital tent.
A drive through the night
to an Irish beach.
Windmills on the end
of a teaspoon.

Drawers full of patchwork
and home-spun wool.
New roof on a
Welsh cowshed.
Girl at the window
of an Amsterdam house
looking down
at an RAF doctor.

Long days in a
children’s hospital.
Grandchildren with
gardens on trays.
Embroidery on a
child’s old dress.

There is a yellow daffodil
in the bed where
you lay.
Be peace-filled now
we will all be ok.

Know that
Martin is with
Neil.
And tomorrow
Neil and Annemarie
will cross fields
to feed the horses.

My Granny Els died earlier this year. She was an inspirational, complicated, beautiful and kind person. I have learnt so much from her and miss her dearly. Her life spoke and was full of stories. I wrote this poem after sitting with her as she died and read it at her funeral.