Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter's fall

The day has scarcely blossomed, when its glow
Is obscured from us, lost, as wilting bloom,
Midst curves of hillsides, draped in drifting snow,
Leaving only an opalescent gloom
Bleeding through the line between land and sky,
No longer day, but not yet fully night.
Mute snowflakes faintly glisten as they fly,
Reflecting the last of this sinking light,
Enchanting ribbons squalling through the grey
Should herald for us a silent warning
That a dark hunger soon will swallow day,
Leaving us with a long path to morning.
Instead we are mesmerised by the scene
Of the winter's fall, silent and serene.

This is my first ever sonnet - it's a bit like hard work!!!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Come be my monster

Come be my monster,
Lay your black heart bare,
Show me your darkness,
Your sorrow, your pain.
I'll sooth it away,
For you I will dare.
Come be my monster,
Live freely again.

Come be my villain,
I'll show you the way
To harness your wrath,
Your terror I’ll tame.
I'll teach you to know
The part you should play.
Come be my villain
And live free from shame.

Come be my darling,
Learn to be my pet.
No more be ugly,
Your beauty I see!
Speak me your secrets,
Feed me your upset.
Come be my darling
And live free with me.

Come be my meaning,
My goodness make glow,
Mirrored in your black,
My worth now I see!
I cannot love you.
So monster please go!
No more torment me!
You must set me free.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

An historic poem

Well it's "historic" in so far as it's one which I added to the Guardian Poster Poems for the "History" topic, although I did always mean to go back and write something more. I'll probably never get round to it, so here it is in its original form for now...

Your history:

History weighs heavy on your eyelids
Now almost lacking the strength to unblink.
Caught in the wrinkles of your sunken face
Memories long lost, but never replaced.
We know your past better than you do now,
Gently steering your familiar tales.
But still we know so little of your life.
Your hopes and dreams, the sights which you have seen,
Are fading in the flickering twilight
Of your once vibrant eyes, now turned to grey.
History that once gave such sweet escape
Now lurks, an unknown beast in your shadow.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ten years gone, but not forgotten

Almost precisely ten years ago I sat on the floor of my best friend's bedroom in the final throws of an uncomfortably hot summer, leaning on a large mobile air conditioning unit, trying to read her poetry through eyes which could barely see and with a voice which no longer seemed to be my own. I shouldn't have been able to function properly, I should have been wailing and mourning and begging for the fates not to take her. But instead I found a secret hard place inside and I let it take over me.

She never once saw me shed a tear for her. Her best friend. The one who became like a sister when we she lost her Dad and my sister went to the other side of the world; the one who never questioned, never judged and never abandoned her in so many hours of need; the one who knew all her secrets and confided hers in return; and the one she'd given her strict instructions to...

No-one was supposed to talk about it, we were to carry on as normal until the bitter end (but people had to make sure they left with something precious of hers whenever they visited). She couldn't let herself falter in her resolve otherwise she would fall apart. She set the tone which we all followed. We dutifully avoided emotional outpourings (although I wrote mine in a letter which I noticed beside her bed at the end), we respected her need to be alone even though we wanted to spend every second with her, and we left her to her quiet times when she contemplated her forthcoming battle, perhaps she was planning how she wanted to play her final scene? She made lists of who was to get her treasures, which was so incredibly important to her. In her final days when the tumour pressed so far into her brain that she could no longer speak she could be seen slowly and carefully giving out imaginary objects to the friends she pictured in her mind, deliberately placing them into the grateful palms she dreamt were there in front of her.

Sadly for her there was only me in the end, in that final scene. It was my turn to sit with her and keep her amused. By this point she hadn't slept for three days and couldn't physically last much longer. None of us knew what she thought, but we imagined she was so terribly scared of what would happen when she closed her eyes. She was so incredibly uncomfortable, sitting on the edge of the bed, propping herself up with her elbows resting on her thighs, but she refused to lie down - presumably for the same sort of reason, the fear that she'd never get up again. She wanted to live one minute and then not be alive the next, she didn't want to fade away, to turn to grey, to drift in the place between the two. Now I know I said we never discussed it, but she was virtually a part of me this girl. I knew how she felt. She'd always been clumsy and awkward. In death as in life she felt self conscious. I knew that she was so mortified by the idea of the indignity of death. She held herself upright and presentable for as long as she could and we helped her.

They had been reading her a Terry Pratchet book, but I couldn't bring myself to read the humorous story with the character called Death. I couldn't even utter the word, plus I knew I'd be a poor substitute for her Auntie who did the silly voices. So I searched the room in snatched moments, returning to my place on the floor at her feet when she faltered and swayed forward, gently propping her back up before continuing my search. I searched for something meaningful, some words which could sum up our life together and found a book we both loved as children. As I read to her I looked to her to try to see recognition of my choice, some indication as to whether the familiarity was a source of comfort or torture, whether I was playing her last moments how she wanted them to be played. She was beyond any ability to communicate, which was so excrutiatingly painful at the time when I needed my best friend the most. You imagine having a perfect moment, that timeless meaningful last exchange, but I feared that if she could hear and understand me that she would feel my words like daggers through her heart.

A few pages into my tentative and angst-ridden performance I had reduced myself to a state of agonised indecision, compelled to carry on reading what I'd started in case it was welcome to her, but wanting so much to apologise with every word and feeling sure I should be intuitive enough to know exactly what to do. I had stopped focusing on her, stopped checking that she was ok. Suddenly her hand came sharply into view. I looked up to see her slumped a little in my direction, her elbow loose and her hand outstretched. I'm so deeply ashamed to admit that I thought that she was reaching out for comfort, in that moment I was full of my own importance and I took her hand and looked into her face to give her those words of love I'd longed for her to seek from me. This was that imagined perfect tableau - the faithful friend sitting at the feet of the brave soul, giving her the strength for her final journey. But this was my wishful thinking. She hadn't finally reached out to me, in reality she had lost that final morsel of strength that was keeping her composed, she'd finally given in and allowed herself to fall. In her last moments I'd made her lose her dignity and that will always haunt me.

Realisation then hit me like a slap to the face and I welled with panic, stomach crashing to the floor. This wasn't supposed to be my moment, it was supposed to be her mother with her when she died. I rushed to the top of the stairs and screamed a banshee's wail, "come, please come!". The family and friends gathered downstairs came rushing, with her mother in the lead. She had a book of poems she wanted to read to send her on her spiritual journey, she had it all planned out. But I had stolen her moment. The doctor had turned up and gently laid her back on the bed, for she had crumpled into an indignified lump in my absence, and he said that she should still be able to hear. I was unspeakably grateful for his intervention and the hope he gave to her mother that she was not too late and she could share the most important moment of her daughter's life.

Secretly though I knew she had gone from the world, I'd sensed her go, I'd felt the air above us electrify over our brief tableau and felt the shadow of death upon my face when she fell and blocked out the waning evening light from the window behind. But her mother needed to feel part of the moment of passing too. I never wanted to take that from her so I played along.

In the end I became some kind of folk legend, the "best friend", the one who she chose to die with. I don't know if this helped or not, they all wanted as perfect an ending as possible for this deeply cherished friend and what better than a peaceful passing in the comfortable presence of her oldest friend? At the funeral people met me with awed faces and wanted to be near me. I was a physical connection to the one they'd lost. I felt honoured and duty bound to play the part, but some things I couldn't do. She was an amazingly upbeat person and had given her instructions for the funeral. People should wear bright colours, but I wore black. We were all supposed to do The Time Warp at the crematorium to mark her sense of fun, but I remained seated and tried not to feel inadequate. I could no longer follow protocol and the sense of disappointment that I thought I saw around me added to my grief to make me feel completely alone and so desperately miserable that my best friend was not there to turn to. This in turn brought on further guilt until it was a frenzied loop of self blame and misery.

For you see the difference between me and the others, the reason why I was alone amongst friends, was that they had not shared that last moment. These people had all lost a loved one from their life, but they had not watched her go and they didn't carry the awful guilt of wondering whether they'd done it right (with no-one left to ask), nor did they view proceedings through the image of the moment their friend lost her fight, seeing all of life through it like looking through a stained glass window on the world. I even saw the image on the back of my eyelids as I tried to sleep. For weeks and months.

So I mention it's been ten years, tonight there is a big party, everyone ever connected to her was invited. I didn't go, I couldn't go, I still can't face commemorating her death day. To these other people it's a date to remember the good times shared with a dear person who they still miss, but for me it marks the saddest day I've yet lived through, the day my best friend slipped away in front of my eyes, no glory, no ceremony, no significant moment where either of us saw into the heart of things. They could only imagine and wish they were there, I continue to live the confusion of wishing I hadn't seen it but also knowing that I would never ever have wanted to be anywhere else.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The fish know best

The fish know best this river blue,
Which deep shrouded currents renew
Under the surface, smooth as glass,
Its secret heart, a writhing mass,
An ever-changing underclass.

Each step I take cannot break through,
Solidity forever true,
To piscine realm where I trespass,
The fish know best.

Their shiny rainbow scales imbue
The depths with iridescent hue,
Taunting me around me they pass
As I fail to catch them, alas!
Old lessons here I learn anew –
The fish know best.

(apologies to those of you who have seen this one from me elsewhere, but I just thought I'd plump my own blog up a bit)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oops, I did it again!

It was quite by accident that I've ended up with another poem in an anthology. I decided I'd take a chance and submit the poem that I'm most proud of (so far) to a poetry competition a few months back. Recently I got a letter saying that I hadn't won, but they were asking permission to print some of the entries into an anthology, to be called Whispers in the Wind I think, I've misplaced the letter. Anyway here's the poem (which I've published at Zeph's lovely Other Stuff blog previously).

Scent of the Rose:

Sorrow masks the scent of the rose
Pulsating in my clenched fist
Crushed like a strangled artery.
Velvet petals, laid layer on layer
Curl tightly to its sweet core
In intricate simplicity.
Its beauty threatening to fade,
Now plucked from its source of life,
Blood red congealing into black.
Its silky skin soothing and cool,
As cold to touch as the stone
Under which you lie. Withering.
And as I place it on you its
Shape springs back immaculate
And unspoilt, as if never touched.

To enter a competition go to United Press - they are always running at least one competition and the prize is £1000...


Sunday, August 30, 2009

An empty heart

Here's my very rough attempt at an idea which was a lot grander than my abilities seemed to allow, but I was pushed for time to meet the Guardian Poster Poem deadline and thought I'd post it anyway. In time I hope to revise it. I think the second stanza probably needs to be made into two stanzas as it changes too suddenly in the middle. The thought behind it was the thought that a person could have paid the price for taking every opportunity to live the experiences which life offers, the price being losing the ability to hold love in their heart, through the loss of innocence. Any thoughts on what works and what doesn't would be welcomed...

An empty heart, a bitter pill:

The night had swallowed my heart whole,
A sugar-coated dust-filled shell
And faint placebo for its ills.
Hungering for solace and cure,
Darkness kneaded vacuous depths,
Moulding dull flesh in bony fists,
Dredging deep for those connections
Which once held my heart at its core -
Rich sinews of the loved and lost
It thought would form emotion's web.

But the gloom could not gain control,
Could not stir sorrow and yearning,
To feed itself on my despair
And sustain its halt upon dawn.
As the sun's light did not burn me,
Nor wake painful rememberings.
For I danced in bleakest shadows,
Had sworn myself without repent
To lustful hedonistic gods -
My heart's blood as the recompense.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Forward to normal?

Today has been a tough day. My first day back at work for three and a half weeks. I was dreading it, but I hadn't quite worked out why beforehand. Three weeks is long enough to notice a colleague's absence, even if you don't work with them very much, so I knew there would be questions. I suspected the source of my dread was the prospect of being asked where I'd been, what had been wrong and whether I was well again, from the people who didn't know. I imagined myself telling them in a detached manner what had happened to me, because I would feel like I was ok again if I'd returned to work. But I suspected that perhaps the other option of everyone knowing and sympathetic looks and gestures might be equally difficult to handle.

I didn't know what to expect from the people who I was going to have to see and interact with, but probably more importantly I didn't know what to expect from me. No idea! No idea if I'd be up or down, friendly or defensive, happy or sad. It was beyond what I could predict or contemplate. I made plans of course: getting there early to avoid running the gauntlet down a full office; telling a couple of people there I was feeling wierd about it so I could call them from the door if I needed help; deciding what work I was going to do to ease me back in; and planning other aspects of the day.

Most people left me to my own devices, which was probably the best option I could have hoped for. A couple of people asked and were a bit put out by the curt answer they got. I was perhaps more put out than them though, as I was shocked at the curt answer I gave. We'd decided as soon as we knew what was really happening that we wouldn't hedge from giving the real answer if people asked, but somehow in a room full of people who didn't know and some of whom I didn't really know well enough to expect them to want to be involved, it became a vast truth to speak out loud, it became an impossible task, the words just wouldn't leave my mouth. Maybe I didn't really know what to say. Should I have told them that I'd had an ectopic pregnancy but it's all fine now, panic over, and after all we could try again and be nice and positive, or would that have sounded too much like I didn't really care about my loss? Should I have said I'd lost a baby and left them feeling that I was melodramatic and enjoyed creating awkward silences? By the time you try to work all these things out you get so exhausted that you just go for the easiest option which is to just say you've been ill and leave it at that.

I've been defensive all day... Yes I'm fine, yes I'm over it now, yes I have been away for a long time but it's best to make sure that I was fully recovered to be able to come back and hit the ground running...

That's all complete rubbish.

I'm not over it.

Right now, this minute, I'm less "over it" than I've been for weeks. Some friends have just had babies, some friends are expecting babies, most people are telling me that the worst is over, but I just don't see how it can be. Yes I'm getting fitter again, I can sit at a computer again and do normal things, but I don't feel like I will ever be the same again. What level of "normal" am I returning to? What am I getting back to? I just don't know.

The person who's been sharing this with me has tried to understand, but he just can't. He can't understand what it's like to be a mother and then not a mother. To have a child physically removed from you. What it's like to be reassured that all you lost was a bundle of cells, yet to know in your heart that if the bundle of cells had been in the right place that you'd be allowing the nurturing feelings to grow and you'd be already seeing it as your baby. How can it be something one minute and a nothing the next minute? I know there are lots of people out there who do know what it's like and I know a lot of you have left me messages already, which I have really appreciated. But just now in the maudlin state that my first day back at work has reduced me to, I can't see how anyone knows exactly what it's like to live my life and understand my battles. I'd only just been picking myself up in life, learning to unfurl my painful truths, only just starting to appreciate how the events of my life shaped me into the emotionally stunted person I am in real life, only just learning how to be selfish in demanding support from other people.

Then suddenly I get thrown into a situation I can no longer handle on my own, one in which it is essential that I trust other people and one which I don't have the ability to process mentally on my own or deal with physically without help. I've been absent from my normal way of life, been thrown off the path and I've been fighting my way through the darkness and the elements to get back again. But where do I return to? Which version of myself? That person who was yet to be a mother no longer exists, at least if she does she's still very lost and confused. In the end do I want to be that same person anyway? I've learnt so much from these past few weeks that the positives which have come from this experience will be lost if I go backwards to the person who I was. So who do I now become?

Getting back to normal is a fallacy and an impossibility. I need to get forward to normal. A new version of normal. How do I do that?

I need to say goodbye to my baby, whether it's the real little ball of cells or the imaginary baby which now lives in my head, the one which this pregnancy would have become in different circumstances, I'm just not sure how I'm going to do it.

Say "Goodbye" to goodbye:

A brown envelope, plain and small,
Screams its importance in dischord
Within its nest of birthday cheers.
Mirroring that happier time,
Where sunrise of benign relief
Rose positive from negative.
This time doomed to herald bad news
Whatever the results may be,
The final outlet for our grief.
"Sadly no official remains"...
Nothing which they need to dispose,
Nothing human we need to mourn.
All moments of existence wiped
By faceless official decree.
The time for forgetting has come.
Tell it to my body, my heart,
My soul and my maternal urge
That they are misplaced, mistaken,
That they are just not viable
That a life did not truly start
Because it could not reach its end.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Are you ok yet??

Am I ok yet? That's a good question...

I'm not far off physically. I can do most of the things I want to do now, although sleeping is still a bit of a problem as I can't get comfy, so I'm still very tired. I'm having a couple of naps during the day, so I'm not sure how that would go down in the office. Actually I have had a quick nap there once or twice before balancing on my hands, elbows on desk, looking like I was concentrating on something complicated. So maybe it wouldn't matter? Also I'm still not able to do all the things which I used to do which involved bending in the middle, but then again who actually wants to do laundry, unstack the dishwasher, or sweep the floor??

One answer to the question is how can I not be ok with these gorgeous flowers beaming at me?:

I still have most of the five bunches of flowers I received (although the chocolate is nearly gone and a fresh supply is being brought this lunchtime). Strangely the biggest and most impressive display died off first. I'm hoping that the sunflowers last for a while as they really do say what I need a bunch of flowers to say. They bring happiness and sunshine, which is sadly lacking with this miserable summer.

Nature has such restorative qualities. Just a simple ten-minute walk down the canal which runs along the bottom of the valley was enough to bring some perspective. There are ducks and quite large ducklings now, sort of teenagers in duck terms, still slightly fluffy round the edges though. The valley sides rise into imposing jutting hillsides, covered in sheep and cows gently calling, and it doesn't matter that it's not good weather, the whole scene is peaceful and makes me realise that life goes on.

(This is the view from my sofa - utter tranquility)

Someone once said, when explaining how devastated they were at their father's death, that they couldn't believe that the buses were still running that day. It's true that you have such a life-changing day and that you can't quite believe that it's just a normal day for everyone else and that things keep on going on regardless, but being in the midst of nature can really bring back to you the sense of insignificance you need to get cracking with life again. Of course now my head is raring to go but my body is still letting me down and I know it will for a few weeks yet.

I suppose really the question of "Are you ok?" doesn't mean what people think it means. To me OK means are you sound? are you ready to carry on? are you managing?. It doesn't mean that you're on top of the world, a hundred per cent happy. In a previous post I talked about visiting my family and seeing that they were ok, that they weren't going to burn out and that they had enough strength and mettle to fight the good fight. That's how I feel now, so as far as I'm concerned I'm ok.

At the moment I'm still in the section of my life where I'm getting special dispensation, I'm not expected to do my share of the housework, I'm not expected to be thinking about complicated situations or legal concepts because I'm off work, I'm not expected to be the best friend listening to other people's troubles (although I don't mind), I'm not expected to be "normal" yet. This makes me feel alright though. I'm as ok as people are expecting me to be. What I need now is to go back to normal life. People keep on saying "don't go back to doing normal things until you're ready", but I don't agree. Doing normal things, finding them scary or traumatic and then getting over them or finding a way to do them differently is what I need now. I need to go to the supermarket and feel overwhelmed and lost, I need to get on the train and fall asleep and get off at the wrong stop, I need to go back to work and find it impossible for a while, I'd rather get thrown off the horse again than get used to not having to ride it at all.

I suppose this is precisely when you are ready, when you can't stand waiting to be ready any longer. No-one is ever fully prepared for what life is going to throw at them next, but knowing that you're ready to stand up tall and face its next challenge is probably as far towards ok as you are ever going to get. At the moment I'm in the house, surrounded by reminders of the fact that a small tragedy has happened and I think it's easy to get pulled into dwelling on that tragedy when you'd really like to move on. I suppose I feel like I should be miserable for a bit as a tribute to the lost baby, but then again the best tribute to him would be to try again, to create the next life and to put the experiences to positive effect. We've had our first lesson in parenting, and it's a very important lesson, how to cope with loss and how to stick together. Actually that's two lessons... there are probably many lessons!

People think that you getting on with life means that you're over the tragedy. That's not the case. It's a hard little stone which you'll always have - you just smooth down the corners until it's not harmful to the touch anymore and you stow it neatly away to be carried around with you. You know it's there and you'll take it out and have a look at it or a feel of it sometimes when something in life reminds you of it. You don't ever let go of it, because it's part of you.

When will this be a distant and dusty recollection?
A set back, not an ending, a hiccup in the process.
When will I awake without the ache in my belly
And a hole in my heart where my nurturing love had swelled?
When will I awake without sorrow falling from my eyes?
When will this just be history, part of the family story,
Told to the grandchild wriggling on my knee?
When will I no longer have to swim up to gasp awake
Through the dark blue sea on which I am drifting?
When will this be a distant memory of a sad time,
Which makes the good times all the sweeter?


Friday, July 24, 2009

Bye, bye baby: lost on a dark blue sea

On Wednesday evening I awoke from the deepest sleep I'd ever been in. I'd had my first general anaesthetic. It was like I'd been slapped awake and my eyelids ripped open. I was in the midst of a swirling sea of blue, nurses in blue uniforms and blue hats with only their faces discernible against the background of the blue curtains pulled around me in the recovery cubicle. It was as if they were a flock of disembodied heads, floating like gulls around me, circling and zooming in and out, occasionally obscuring the one bright ceiling bulb, making the faces appear dark and sinister in the shadow against the cloud of light behind them. I felt like a baby in a pram, unable to move or communicate to the faces above me, but so wanting to be able to do so. I felt one year old, a hundred years old, no age, yet every age. I felt all the years of womankind upon me all at once.

And I cried. Uncontrollably. All-consuming sobs from deep inside, crying from my heart and my soul. I couldn't stop, my body was possessed by a mournful banshee and overrun by a ferral emotion, which had such a grip it was shaking the air from my lungs and wouldn't let me loose, lurching its pain and sorrow up through me, like the pounding of an earthquake which only I could feel and couldn't ignore.

For I had gone to sleep like I'd turned to stone and was jolted awake what seemed only moments later, but I knew it had been more like an hour and I knew that me being awake again meant that my baby had gone. Those first few shocking seconds I wished I'd never woken up again, but I had done and now I had to deal with reality. In this cold sea of dark blue and unfamiliar faces I marked the death of my baby, my whole body venting the pain. This was the most significant moment in my life so far. And I felt more alone than I have ever felt.

He? She? I'm not sure. I think I'll opt for a male (no sense of direction you see) - he got stuck in a fallopian tube and never found the womb, content to latch on where he could, merrily growing away, unaware of his fatal error. They call it an ectopic pregnancy and it can never survive. It had to be removed, along with the damaged tube. It couldn't be transplanted into the right place, despite all the wonders of modern medicine and all my fervent wishing. I don't believe in God, but I tried to make a connection when I was wheeled down to the operating room, tried to feel him and tried to tune into Mother Nature to ask her for a miracle too. I imagined waking up to the buzz of an amazing event, an ectopic baby which they'd managed to transplant, a blessed child who'd saved himself at the final hour...

The pity in the circling gull faces told me this had just been a fantasy. He had gone. My precious little peanut, who I'd carried around for weeks had become a health risk, a blockage which needed removing. He'd become a challenge to my very life, it was either him or me, and seeing as he would never be "viable" the choice was obvious, there was no contest: he had to go. I was his mother, but I couldn't protect him, I couldn't guide him or help him. All I could do was to sign his life away and hope that he couldn't feel anything. He was just a ball of cells, a thing, an "it", so people kept on saying.

I hadn't known for very long that I was pregnant, not for definite anyway. It only takes a second to feel connected though, motherhood is instinctive and instant. For about three years I've been through the monthly rollercoaster of wondering and waiting, hoping that I was when I felt a bit different to normal. Every moment of sickness and every tired day were possible signs, but I always tended to suppress all hopes as much as I could because it's so painful to be disappointed over and over. I do recall feeling more strange than usual. I got on the wrong train and cried on the conductor, I had moments of abject despair and others of pure elation, all unexplained yet ignored as signs because I didn't dare to hope. I got drunk far too quickly on several occasions, naturally went off smoking, all things which should have been signs, but only if you let yourself see them.

So I'd only known for a few days that I was pregnant, we'd had an appointment at the clinic on the Monday when I'd done a test which came up viciously pregnant. The line virtually jumped out of the little window. But no pregnancy was to be seen in the womb. This was my first scan, and he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was just too small to be detected and he was still in the right place. That was a possibility, at least in my head. I suspect that they were just trying to keep things calm by not saying that they clearly thought it was ectopic. I had to have a blood test that day and then come back on the Wednesday for another one and they compared the two to diagnose it. If it was still growing, but not at the expected rate, then it was still a growing pregnancy, but in the wrong place. That was what they were looking for now, that's what they were testing to confirm. It was what I was hoping wasn't going to be true, but it was.

On the Wednesday it was confirmed, I was taken for a scan to show that it was not in the womb, and then all of a sudden the place went mad. Chaos exploded around me as I had to stay perfectly still, being in the midst of a very compromising position in the scanning room. The top consultant turned up, who was male, so he needed a chaperone (even though my husband was there) and then he couldn't work the machine so someone else came to help him. I couldn't see my husband any more. He'd been shoved back somewhere near the door. The one person who I wanted to see, who I needed, desperately. He was there somewhere I know, I could taste his panic filling the air and I could hear him trying to make himself heard to talk to me. No-one else. Just me. But all I could see was people who I didn't know and my little peanut on screen. Some woman, I didn't care to know who she was, patted me on the shoulder and said she was sorry. Why was she allowed to reach me but my husband was so far away? How could a pat on the shoulder from a stranger be any kind of substitute? They forget you are human and that you have emotions and that you have just been given the worst news they could have given you and might need some support. You are seen as the carrier of the problem, the vessel, but otherwise you are not considered and the poor father might as well not be there at all. You are like an exhibit in a museum, delicate and to be preserved but the property of everybody else.

It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done to stay calm during all that, with a rush of excited people flowing around me whilst I stayed motionless, like I was a stone jutting out of a stream. The room seemed full with people who'd never seen an ectopic pregnancy before wanting to look, arguing over how many weeks old it was, whether there was a yolk sack, whether there was a heartbeat... A HEARTBEAT. How could they say it was a ball of cells one minute and then mention a heartbeat? At this point everything else fell away, the people merged into a swirling lump around me and all I could see was that black ball on the screen, inches from my womb. I strained to try to see a yolk sack and a heartbeat. I stared and tried to commit the picture to memory. I don't know now why I even thought I needed to try, it's burnt onto my memory like I'd looked at an eclipse of the sun. That moment the sun was completely blotted out by this tiny black ball of cells. That moment was drawn out, augmented by its own importance, and a whole lifetime of sorrow was lived in one deep sigh, before the world speeded up around me again as the drama of the emergency situation unfolded at a hundred miles an hour.

The people washed away as quickly as they'd flooded in, leaving to set about the next task and I was left to get dressed again, feeling totally numb, looking imploringly at my husband and him at me, neither of us knowing what to do or say. We were eventually fetched to the consultation room and sat down. I stared out of the window to try to see the sky. Something normal, something tangible and unchanging. It was raining and the sky was uniformly grey. No clouds, or maybe it was completely made up of clouds, I couldn't think any more to be able to answer my own question. Big decisions needed to be made, and I couldn't think, not even enough to try to explain that I couldn't think. Even trying to use my head that much was making me feel like lying on the floor and sleeping. I'd lie in the corridor and people could step over me. I didn't care.

I could take some drugs to break the pregnancy down. I asked how long that would take. They said I would have to come back a few times a week for a few weeks to be monitored to check that it was reducing and dissipating. I could see our misery stretching in front of us, how many times would we have to walk past the wall of smiling baby photos, sit in the waiting room with pregnant ladies and how could I keep on asking the question "How dead is my baby this time?" Maybe he'd be a fighter, maybe he'd refuse to go quietly and there would be weeks of being brave and feeling myself die a little bit more each time inside.

Luckily my husband had more wits about him than me and said he wanted it sorting out as soon as possible (he may have even wagged his finger). He's no taller than me, but suddenly next to the towering consultant (a tall and heavily built Italian) he looked like a giant. I've never felt so vulnerable and so protected at the same time. I wanted him to decide, and even though he didn't want to tell me what to do he said enough in the end for me to follow him and let him decide. I was to have the surgery. He had in mind that an ectopic can burst and cause massive internal bleeding and can be fatal. He wasn't thinking about the baby any more, he was just thinking about me. I needed him to do that for me because I just couldn't think straight. We were sent home to pack a bag and return to the hospital, whilst they arranged the admission. We tearfully rang our parents and our work to pass on the news and I packed my bag, including the new pygamas which we'd bought on the way home. It's a small thing to focus on but I refused to go back without something nice to wear in bed. They were dark blue too.

I didn't really know what the surgery entailed, I didn't really know what they were going to do, but I pretended I did. It needed to happen, so I didn't see what difference it made. I was now floating along on the tide, not even attempting to swim along, just letting everyone else keep me afloat. I'd have plenty of time afterwards to get acquainted with my scars. I was going to stay as upbeat as possible and just go along with whatever I was required to do. I dutifully thought of questions to ask each different nurse and doctor who came to see me, to stick that tube in, to give me this pill, this injection, tell me whatever they thought I needed to know. I tried to be as brave as I could, although apparently I was still in the "nervous" category and given extra medication, despite me being as upbeat as I could muster.

When I woke up after the surgery I couldn't stay upbeat any longer. I had lost all my strength and I couldn't pretend any more. I was devastated and heartbroken. The doctor was lovely, he eventually swirled into view amongst the circling gull faces when I woke up and explained to me that the surgery had been successful - not the wild fantasy dream version of successful when they'd managed to transplant the pregnancy into the right place, but the kind of successful that they'd been aiming for in that the pregnancy and tube were removed. He smiled at me as he carefully said the next sentence, that the other fallopian tube looked healthy and that the womb looked perfectly fine as well. I clasped his hand and thanked him with as strong a voice as I could muster, between shuddering sobs. I will never forget his face, the bringer of hope in such a desolate time. I will picture his kindly smile and the corona of the ceiling light round the top of his head like a halo as he leaned over to speak to me. My guardian angel. He was the only doctor to have treated me as a human being with emotions and deep fears which needed comforting, to have acted like he had all the time in the world to speak to me, and he had told me to think nice thoughts before I went to sleep so I would wake up in the middle of those thoughts. It was a nice gesture, although I wasn't able to do it!

I didn't stay in hospital for long, they keep you until you can stand without falling over and then send you on your way. That suited me fine. I'd not got very much sleep. I'd spent hours staring out of the window at angry dark blue clouds drifting quickly overhead. The wind was howling around the building, screaming my pain for me as I silently cried to myself.

The night was dark blue and in those hours which seemed like weeks in the middle of that first night I pictured myself floating in a midnight sea, cold, alone, but alive. Motionless and expectant, knowing eventually I was going to float back to shore and to the people who would look after me, to whom I wasn't a name on a clipboard and to the one who thought he'd nearly lost me and had nearly gone wild with despair. How ironic that only a week before, in the midst of a pregancy-fuelled depression I'd wondered if there would ever be someone who couldn't live without me. Well now I know he was there all along. I thank my blessed little peanut for this gift which he has given to me.

For any of you who've actually read this far, I thought I'd re-post this poem, which seems rather prophetic now. It was written at a time when I was upset that I'd not managed to fall pregnant and I'd just spent the day with my godchildren and was upset having to leave them and still feeling the weight of the baby in my arms.


The earth mother awakes and
Snuffles in the dirt for her baby.
She can feel his weight in her arms,
She can smell his honey hair
Touched to her face as she whispered
Her soothing love into his crown.
She remembers staring into him,
Seeing his need mirroring her own
in his wide eyes, rarely blinking.
But he is gone. And she is desperate.
The forest echoes with her cries
Guttural sobs rising from empty womb
Refracting through trunks and branches
Converging into one mournful wail.
With swollen eyes raised to the canopy
She pleads to her god with rasping implore
To return her to her whole again, for
He is gone. And she would go too.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

A full turn of the circle: back to five-minute poetry

It's how I started, not worrying about whether I'd used the right form, just letting the words pour out. I thought it was wise to revisit this to get myself started up again. I wrote this on the way to work in a spare five minutes on the train. Maybe I'll use it as a base for a later more considered version, or maybe I'll just leave it as a little slice of the much deeper longing it represents...

Will there ever be someone?

There's a chink in the wall,
But will anyone ever burn
With the unceasing desire
To need to force through?
Will I ever be that damsel
In need of rescue?
Will there be someone
Who can't live without me,
Who must defend me
Whether right or wrong?
Will I ever course
through anyone's veins?
Will there be a heartbeat
Which speaks my name,
And only mine.
Will I ever become
Unwaivering obsession?
An essential possession?
Will anyone give his dreams
For me to tread upon?


Thursday, June 11, 2009

In an anthology

So it's finally been decided which poems will make it into the first print anthology of the Poster Poems series that has been running for the last year on the Guardian book blog, and Billy Mills has kindly included one of mine. It's not one of my best, it was posted in my first few weeks here, when I was just getting started writing the poetry and I was determined to rise to the Poster Poem challenge every week, regardless of the quality of the poem that I'd written.

I hope that I'll be able to add some better ones when the challenge starts up again. Watch that space! (I've added the link to the Poster Poems into my bloglist so you can browse there to see what it's all about).

Thanks to Billy for my inclusion! It's an inspiration for me to improve on my work (hopefully!) in the future.


Whilst dreaming of you
I slept through the rain
And I woke up to
glorious sunshine,
Only to find that
you were just a dream.

You passed in the night
In a moment I
thought everlasting.
And as rain returns,
I drift back to sleep
to dream once again.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ode De Parfum

Well not quite an "ode" (it's just that title amused me), but poetic none the less.

I found a tiny little leaflet inside the gorgeous Alien perfume which my husband brought me back from his latest travels. It delighted me enough, with my new poetic outlook on life, to share it with you all.

Firstly there is the tagline for this range of perfume which goes:

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet - a good motto for life perhaps?

Anyway the leaflet reads:

"A woman from elsewhere, radiant and hypnotic: mysterious and yet so close to us...
Her energy has crystallised into a magnetic stone revealing hope,
A luminous sensuality born of the unique marriage between an imaginary amber with its legendary perfume and a solar flower, Jasmine Sambac."

Sounds romantic and ethereal, let's see if it'll make me radiant and hypnotic... I suspect not.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poems on tour

Those of you with eagle eyes might have spotted a link in my bloglist to a poetry site, which has just posted a new poem for me.

I'll not post here because, well, I've posted it there.

But feel free to browse... warning it's a bit miserable!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Musings of lost childhood whilst gazing skyward

I've been challenged recently in trying to work out the essence of a good haiku. There are so few syllables to play with that each word is so important. It seems difficult to be able to portray a whole image. But I was inspired by gazing at a blue sky filled with clouds, the kind of sky which I would stare at as a child whilst laying in sweet summer grass and just taking in the vastness of the heavens.

I was reminded of those childhood feelings of being part of nature and of life stretching out slowly in front of me.

Corona clad clouds,
Yearning for lost youth drifting
In herringbone skies.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another light-hearted poem, this time about bank robbery

All he was good at...

When Robin Banks were nought but a small boy,
In short-leg trousers and public school cap,
They pondered what source of gainful employ
There could be for such a talentless chap.
Assiduously able to destroy
Any project on which his hand did clap,
His genius often would they deploy
To chores they'd not mind when he caused mishap.

He tried his hand at countless professions
But somehow he lacked the requisite nous
To make any kind of good impressions,
Successive bosses their ardour he'd douse
Through incompetence and indiscretions.
He chopped the wrong trees and milked the wrong cows,
He'd clear the wrong house in repossessions -
He seemed clearly destined for the workhouse.

One day a gent in sharp suit and cravate
Rode into town on a shiny black steed,
Burst in the saloon and took off his hat
And with his stashed cash "Free bar!" he decreed.
He worked round the punters, charming with chat.
When Robin he met his long face queried,
"I'm Robin Banks," Rob said, "All I'm good at..."
"What luck!" the gent exclaimed, "Just what I need."

Rob listened with awe as the gent relayed
Tales which were surely pure fabrication,
Of adventure and crime, handsomely paid,
which he soon was to find weren't invention.
Reckless natured, a good gangster he made,
So hungry to get retaliation,
The town's folk who'd scorned him were now afraid.
He'd finally found his true vocation.


Friday, April 3, 2009

A light-hearted ballade

My last post was a week ago and I'm starting to get itchy! I've been really busy with one thing and another, plus I've been hunting out some new poetry challenges since the Guardian Poster Poems have sadly ceased (which helped me write a few of my earlier poems on this blog).

The challenge I found was to write a ballade on the theme of "Escape". I also set myself the additional challenge of writing something light-hearted. There is a reference to a famous 60s film (which I found incredibly strange when I caught a few minutes of it the other day).

I suspect that it may seem a bit disrespectful, but it really is meant in a lighthearted way...

St. Pollyanna tries her escape:

His mighty works to understand,
To convent foolishly I sped.
Far from finding the promised land,
In me a vile depression spread,
To dull the pain on whisky fed.
Much Devil’s water did I scoff,
And slept face-down in flowerbed -
Stop the world, I want to get off!

From the nunnery I’ve been banned
For secret prayers to Spanish red -
I’ll never sit at God’s right hand!
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
“No! just give me Christ’s blood”, I said,
“It makes you blind it tastes so rough,
Slow poison which Our Lord has blessed.”
Stop the world, I want to get off!

To oblivion I had planned
A journey ending live or dead,
But no escape could I command!
Slowly waking, my swirling bed
Instills in me a sense of dread,
Wine for breakfast is not enough
To help me face the day ahead -
Stop the world, I want to get off!

Prince of spirits, grant me instead
A stronger drop (perhaps Smirnoff?)
To send me back out of my head.
Stop the world, I want to get off!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lacking the necessary espression

I walked up to the counter of a small branch of a famous coffee shop (better not start naming names) this morning and asked for an espresso. Simple enough. Or so you'd think...

I'd been to this place before and last time the woman behind the counter had kindly shown me the tiny cup and explained that it was very strong, clearly expecting me to realise what a silly mistake I'd made and that I'd instead ask for a nice fluffy girly drink in an oversized mug with choc sprinkles or marshmallows. "No just an espresso please," I replied, "in one of those tiny cups". I declined the offer of milk, frothy and otherwise, and smiled sweetly to reassure her as she handed over my little cup of pure evil, still unsure as to whether she was giving me the right thing.

This second time I could feel, as I approached her, that it was going to be a similar battle. Today I was very tired, I really needed the caffeine fix, I had an important appointment to get to and a lot to do, I was soaked to the skin after half an hour walking in driving rain. I wasn't really in the mood to have to explain what I wanted, considering I was using the exact word which was printed on the large menu hanging above the counter, which should surely be easy enough with such a limited menu? But I was out of luck.

"Can I have an espresso please?" I asked wearily - weary from my journey and with anticipation of the confused exchange which was about to happen. "Just plain?" she asked, "Or do you want it skinny?"... I was rather taken aback by the skinny option being offered for an espresso. I'm not really sure what skinny means. To be brutally honest I'm not sure she did either. Maybe it means with-milk? I decided to avoid the word completely, "Yes I'd like it plain please". No Milk, I thought, good.
I started to get the feeling that she'd not really been listening to me when she started crashing around with milk cartons. Some people think they know best, like those hairdressers who give you the cut which they think suits you and not the one you've asked for. As if I don't know my own hair or my own palette, I've lived with them both for 33 years - I know what I like and I'd really rather like to have what I want. It's misplaced benelovence I suppose, thinking they know best, but what happened to the customer always being right?

"Do you want skimmed?" she chirped over the buzzing coffee machine. "I don't want milk thanks, just plain." This caused some confusion and a palpable air of incredulity from behind the counter, "But you asked for it skinny!!". Trying to remain as polite as I'd been brought up to be, although in my mind I was beating her around the head with a very small cup, I replied "No I didn't, I asked for it plain."

How am I supposed to know what the coffee-speak is for without-all-the-fancy-stuff-you’re-trying-to-make-me-have? And what hope was there for me if she didn't know the coffee-speak for a rather popular type of coffee?

I continued very patiently to explain that I would like a strong black coffee in a small cup. This had to make sense surely? Maybe she would even shake her head at me and ask me if I wanted an espresso then... that would be progress. But, no, the connection was lost. I was handed a normal (regular) sized black coffee and begrudgingly paid for it, mumbling that if I'd wanted an Americano I'd have asked for one - I know that much coffee-speak!

Now with literally two minutes for my coffee break and a very hot coffee to drink I was rather despondent. How lovely it would have been to have had a strong sweet shot instead of some coffee flavoured water! So I took a few sips, roughly an espresso's worth, and carefully returned my cup and saucer back to the counter on my way out, secretly hoping that she might be left wondering to herself, if all I wanted was a few sips, why didn't I just ask for one of those strange miniature coffees instead?

Monday, March 23, 2009

A bigger picture...

Here's the full version of the sculpture I pictured below - it's called the Mud Maid. I think it's so beautiful because she's at one with nature and her appearance changes with the seasons. Her hair is grass and she's clad in plants, so she has more or less of this depending on the season and she's weathered so she could have been there for eternity. I'm sure she could inspire some more verse...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Earth Mother

The earth mother awakes and
Snuffles in the dirt for her baby.
She can feel his weight in her arms,
She can smell his honey hair
Touched to her face as she whispered
Her soothing love into his crown.
She remembers staring into him,
Seeing his need mirroring her own
in his wide eyes, rarely blinking.
But he is gone. And she is desperate.
The forest echoes with her cries
Guttural sobs rising from empty womb
Refracting through trunks and branches
Converging into one mournful wail.
With swollen eyes raised to the canopy
She pleads to her god with rasping implore
To return her to her whole again, for
He is gone. And she would go too.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Another post to the Guardian Poster poems. It's becoming an obsession, but hopefully a learning curve too. This one I've tried not to rhyme...


The Moon spills its milky light
From its small pocket in vast denim sky,
Intermittently crossed by translucent clouds
Obscuring its blank marble face.
Extending its spindly pale fingers
It snatches into depths of darkness
Reaching wherever it is allowed
By the blaring man-made globes below.
They pierce the gloom, but remain silent
Unwilling witnesses to harsh scenes
Illuminating the noisy streets
Mute as the moon drifting hopelessly above.
Darkness swells around artificial shields
Under which the revellers clash,
Shining bright peacocks in vivid clothes
Sucking lurid potions through pugilist lips.
Men in checked shirts and sunday shoes,
With cigarattes dripping from loose fists,
Women with brassy bangles and glassy jewels,
They meet to fight, the night their battleground.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Less a poem more an outpouring...

The Guardian poem section this week is about "walking". I've had a lot to do this week and I've not been able to take time to really think about imagery and the right words to use, so instead I went for an outpouring into a tight structure. I'm going to add it anyway. Nothing ventured and all that!

I felt I'd represented the emotion anyway.


We walked here, She and I, when we knew no worry or worldly care,
Except where we would end up when we reached the place we knew not where.

We walked here, She and I, when we would share our childhood day by day
And in shadow of growling hills and besides glistening brook would play.

We walked here, She and I, when we confided each our teenage fears,
Voicing secret thoughts and dreams, interweaving our lives through the years.

We walked here, She and I, when we cleansed ourselves in timeless beauty,
Unaltered over the years whilst we'd assumed each adult duty.

We walked here, She and I, when we no longer found ourselves alone,
Chiling shadows falling on her, threat'ning to numb her into stone.

We walked here, She and I, when we knew that we would walk no longer,
Hearts breaking beyond all measure as death's claim on her grew stronger.

We walked here, She and I, when we sought solace in her final hour,
Bittersweet memories of beauty lived which we would share no more.

We walked here, She and I, when she lived again in colourful dreams,
Sadness soothed by embrace of green hills and sweet song of whispering streams.


Monday, February 9, 2009

GUARDIAN POSTER POEM - Me breaking the ice...

I wrote this really quickly because I wanted to post a poem to get started before they changed the subject again, but I know I could have done it a lot more justice if I'd had some time... I just wanted to break the ice and do this for the first time...

Growing old for her:

I watched her pass, she died so young
And I promised her I'd carry on
I'd live my life for both our sakes
So she would never truly be gone.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm growing old
In the mostpart just for her not me
It's getting harder day by day
To fight the grasp of frailty.

Behind closed eyes I see her still
In vivid colour and awkward peace
Forever framed in time and place
But tranquil in her sweet release.

Her serenity engulfs me too
And I find the strength to pursue my task
Of growing old as I think she'd want
But "How am I doing?" I long to ask.


Friday, February 6, 2009

First attempt...


Glint in his eye
Burning red
Sharp spears
Aiming deep
Into the conscience
Of the people passing by.

Accusation in his finger
Gnarled and pale
Kept rigid
By hope and fear
Pointing like an arrow
At the world.

Conviction in his voice
Telling the ignorant
To guard the future
Well-worn words
Startling, yet
Bland through use.

Indifference in their faces
Meagre audience
No tolerance
Listening, but
Not hearing
Just killing time.

He has a vision and a mission
A message of reformation and redemption.

Desperation in his bones
Sitting hunched
On the pavement
Feet in the gutter
The lights of the cars
Glinting red in his eye.


Just starting out...

Welcome to my blog. A little bit of poetry from one a bit green behind the ears.

Hopefully you'll see some progression on here if you come back from time to time.

ALL comments welcome...