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
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.


And then I
am floating
on the hospital ceiling.
Looking down
at my body.
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

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.
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.