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.

Birth

And then I
am floating
on the hospital ceiling.
Looking down
at my body.
Naked,
open,
centre-stage.
It’s pretty biological.
Must be the fucking
gas and air.

What’s that
war film where they
go into slo-mo?
There’s a beach,
must’ve D-day,
or b-day,
Or VBAC day
(chortle).

Down there
by my body,
people gather
round my vagina
Like it’s a camp-fire.

A midwife pauses,
waiting like a surfer
for the next wave.
It will come.
Oh fuck not yet.
Leave me up here
a little longer.

The door opens
and it rushes in.
Sweeping me
down from the ceiling.
Back,
all of me united in
dark, purple pushing.

Well I thought I might as well start as I mean to go on. With the real stuff that is birth. VBAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean, which is how my second little one came into the world.