You can go home now: hospital poems (16)……the epilogue

 

Last hospital post. A stay in hospital is invariably disconcerting, often uncomfortable, invariably filled with periods of boredom and irritability. But the routines,(and the odd surrealism of its being normality for the amazing folk who actually work there, day in and day out), are sometimes punctuated by moments of pure comedy, and sometimes by things that are utterly and joyously memorable. So here’s my favourite memory of a ten day stay in Dewsbury General. There’s a back story to this that I’ll keep to the end

Snow_on_Atlas_Mountain_Morocco_1600x1200

 

 

 

Confidence trick

 

Here is never quiet, quite,

nor dark  enough for sleep.

Urgency and purpose

are never reassuring —

 

like this castanet clatter

of curtain rings, the flourishing

of  fabric that tents an empty bed;

white coats, blue-belted nurses

that come in a flurried huddle,

like bees, and, in a sudden,

pull aside the screens. And go.

 

A wonder sits in a bubble of light,

immaculate in white.His wide sleeves

fall as easily as water from his wrists;

he winds and winds a turban,

his fingers long and tapered, the ribbon

like a stream..  He is quite at ease.

 

He sits cross-legged, his knees, his calves

flat on the sheets, his feet,

pale-soled, together like a prayer.

 

He is alien and beautiful. A hawk.

His beard is silver-frosted,

eyes dark, his face sun-black.

 

Here are red and ochre mountains,

ash, the tang of woodsmoke, juniper,

and dung. Here is dust and stone,

hot wind, kites, a huge white sky.

 

No-one know why he is here

or how to speak his language.

No-one knows how old he is.

He knows  how to be still.

 

Next morning

his bed’s been stripped,

and he has vanished.

For me, the magic, trick or not,

was real . I wish him well.

 

[Unpublished. Till now]

magic

 

 

I should acknowledge lifting the last line from Douglas Dunn’s ‘Terry Street’..the poem about the guy somewhere down the Hessle Road, pushing a lawnmower in the street. ‘That man, I wish him grass’.

The character in the poem turned up in the middle of the night. His installation seemed to involve most of the hospital night staff. Because you’re drugged up a lot of the time, you assume it’s a dream. But next morning, there he is, as described in the poem. For three days he taxed the ingenuity of all the hospital staff, who tried him on Arabic, Hindi, Panjabi, Pashtun and a range of other languages..all to no avail. And then he was gone. I missed him enormously. He was, simply, a visual delight. It turned out he was a con man who had been working his way around the hospitals of East and West Yorkshire. It seems even now a ridiculously complicated way of blagging free bed and board.

 

So that’s it . Thank you to all our guests for their time and their poems xx Thanks:

Bob Horne, Neil Clarkson, Charlotte Ansell, Ian Harker, Becky Cherriman, Rose Drew, Hilary Elfick, Lydia Macpherson, Andy Humphrey, Keith Hutson, Christopher North, Maria Taylor, Andy Blackford, Rebecca Gethin and Joe Williams

And thanks and ever thanks to the wonderful thing that is the NHS.

9492d34aeaff0c196b67b67d4c27f695_XL

ps.

There will now be an intermission of some days. Next post should be  Oct30th..

 

 

How are you feeling now? Hospital poems (15)

Google-office-corridor

I’d decided that there would be just one more guest post in this series. But yesterday, by a strange kind of synergy, under an ominous grey sky with a very small dull red sun, I went off to St James’ Infirmary (there’s a Blues sung specially for it, you know) and the incredibly light and beautifully designed Oncology Dept. It has a big spacious atrium, and there’s a Baby Grand at which a succession of absorbed pianists tinkle soothing things throughout the day. There’s lovely looking fruit stall, and as a bonus yesterday, Macmillan Charity workers were selling the most staggeringly more-ish selection of homemade cakes you could shake a stick at. Up on the next floor in Nuclear Medicine I drank lots of water and then went along corridors with infinite perspectives to a a white room with a scanner straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was beyond white. It was very very white. Before that, in the waiting room, I read a lot of Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica. It’s astonishing. And I read three poems Rebecca Gethin sent me. And here are two of them. No explanation needed.

1.

Coming round :  Rebecca Gethin

 

I was breaching frost-cold water

but which was me and which was water

I couldn’t tell, the current drawing

what seemed to be a mind

further down to open sea

where taste was brackish,

vision salt and smarting

 

and my limbs moved

in the fallingfeeling

lived in its breathlessness,

but I breathed through its pounding

as though breasting

its tugging and pulling

by lying within it,

resting on its will.

 

2.

 

En route   

 

Corridors are like tunnels –

turns to left, right, right, left –

 

the blue line I was told to follow

is one among several

and other people flow along different ones,

their footsteps tapping –

 

a white corridor with an electricbuzz

lies before me.  I am tipped downhill

past a chapel with a cross on the door,

Oncology at the bottom

 

and still further on towards

Nuclear Medicine.

More edges and corners

to a cul de sac –

 

the waiting room.  Windowless.

Were it not for all the people waiting

the room would be empty.

 

We wait on the cushions

of our shadows.  Our names

pull each one through the door alone.

 

Rebecca Gethin  won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award with her first novel, Liar Dice, which was published in 2011. Her first poetry collection, River is the Plural of Rain, was published by Oversteps Books in 2009 and was followed by a second collection, A Handful of Water, with Cinnamon Press in 2013. What the Horses Heard is her latest novel and was published in May 2014. Her two latest collections are A Sprig of Rowan  [Three Drops Press], and All the time in the world  [ published in Feb 2017 :Cinnamon Press]

 

Last hospital post tomorrow. That’s definite.

How are you feeling now? Hospital poems (14)

handle with care

They can do wonders in the NHS. No question. But as singers through the ages have told us there are things they can’t do. Leonard Cohen was clear enough:

 

“..I can’t believe that time is
Gonna heal this wound I’m speaking of
There ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure for love”

 

and Robert Palmer offered the prognosis

 

“… you like to think that you’re immune to the stuff, oh yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough
You know you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love”

 

Which brings us nicely to our penultimate guest poet of this tour of the worlds and wards of the hospital

 

 

Endoscopy : Joe Williams

 

My doctor sent me

to have an endoscopy.

 

The instruments they used

made me gag and retch,

 

and in the end they said

they couldn’t find anything wrong with me,

 

that the burning in my guts

was probably just love,

 

and there was nothing they could do

about that.

 

 

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. He tells tales of lost love, people in pubs, and how not to dispose of the bodies of family members, with the occasional moment of crushing heartbreak just to keep you on your toes. His debut poetry pamphlet, Killing the Piano, was published by Half Moon Books in September 2017.

ps He is also this year’s poetry slam/open mic champion at Ilkley Literature festival…..as from last night!

 

On writing sequences: with guests Keith Hutson, Steve Ely and Pascale Petit

63dc05ea8a93b5b3c9cd98b027a2d5b1--human-evolution-science-classroom

For the last 18 months I’ve been more or less bogged down, stalled, stymied – call it what you like. It started with a reading I heard at the Red Shed in Wakefield, a group performance by the Sandal Writers. It was a compilation, something on the lines of a radio ballad, about a pit disaster at Lofthouse Colliery near Wakefield in 1972. I can’t explain why it stuck, why it bothered me, why it generated random images and narratives. I just know that I wanted to/had to write about it. Which is when the the problem of The Sequence wandered into my head and won’t wander out.

I’m not even sure what I mean by ‘a sequence’ beyond the feeling that I want to write about a particular something and that one poem won’t do…and possibly not six or ten. How many poems does it have to be before it’s ‘a sequence’? When I published my first pamphlet it was simply a case of organising poems I’d written into some kind of order, with a suggestion of a beginning, a middle and an end. Subsequently I found I’d written sequences by accident, the unintended consequence of undeclared passion or obsession. My second pamphlet, Backtracks is a back to front narrative, Poems that tell the story of me, my parents and grandparents. Anyone can do that. It’s a given. There were other poems that became what I’d call ‘groups’..poems about one of my sons, about the Macpherson’s of Achnacloich, about the Norsemen and the NE Coast of England, about the Greek and Roman pantheons.

And then there were the problematic ones…the deliberately conceived sequences. For instance, when I was half-heartedly doing an MA in Creative Writing I determined to write a sequence about the Highland Clearances as they affected the Isle of Skye. I read a lot, and I went on a good many walks to clearance sites like Suishnish and Boreraig (including another kind of dereliction in the remains of an abandoned marble quarry). But the places didn’t fit my preconceived emotional narrative. I went looking for ghosts and found none. I wrote a handful of poems, but not the ‘sequence’ I thought was there, somewhere.

John_William_Waterhouse_-_La_Belle_Dame_sans_Merci_(1893)

Then there was the late 19th C painter John Waterhouse…I’ve always liked that late-post-pre-Raphaelite sort of painting based on poems and myths and fables. I was fascinated by the fact that one face turns up in painting after painting. There’s no conclusive proof, but it’s supposed the model was a Miss Muriel Foster. I spent nearly two years reading all I could find about it all. I was intrigued by the idea of a triangular relationship between the artist, his model and his wife (who was also a painter). In the end I wrote four poems, and realised that it needed a novel and that either A S Byatt or Jill Dawson or Hilary Mantel should have written it. I think that what it comes down to is something Helen Mort said to me…something on the lines that you can MAKE a poem be, but it won’t be any good. Pretty much what Keats said about poetry needing to come as naturally as leaves to the tree’. And I guess that applies to ‘sequences’, too.

Anthony Gormley's Terracotta Figures Return To Their Birthplace

And then there were the sculptures. I worked for a few years in a college in the grounds of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and every day I’d pass Elizabeth Frink’s ‘Seated man‘ and Michael Ayrton’s Minotaur. I got in the habit of passing the time of day with the seated man, and conceived the notion that these great sculptures contained the souls of the famously transgressive and of fallen angels. Bit by bit, mainly because I really wanted to experiment with ‘voices’, I wrote enough fallen angel poems to fill a pamphlet. They are all dramatic monologues. Queen Victoria speaks in the style of Emily Dickinson, The Angel of the North in Miltonic blank verse. A lot of the poems involve pastiche. I enjoyed that, and it became a book, but I still wonder if it’s the real deal. I know I like performing them, and I know that the idea of the narrative voice was the key that opened the door. But when it comes the seven men killed in the Lofthouse Disaster (six never recovered) the key is elusive. A few weeks ago I went on a writing week in which I hoped there’d be a tutor who might help me find that key. I was disappointed. Worse, I felt as though I’d had my legs kicked out from under…I almost persuaded myself that it was a foolish notion, and indeed, that I should possibly give up the whole writing business. I’m over that self-pitying stuff now, but what helped enormously was to bite a bullet and get the chutzpah to ask poets I admire if they’d share their experience. Particularly, I asked three poets who write recognizable and wonderful sequences…..especially I asked them this

I’ve been struggling with a writing project. I’ve got shedloads of material…I’ve been assembling that for well over a year. What I can’t manage at the moment is to find a place to stand and say: we start here. I’m convinced that could come about in a trice. A phrase, an idea for a holding form, a structure, a phrase, a refrain. It doesn’t matter how.

Now, I’m not asking for help with this, so you can say ‘phew’ and keep reading. What may clear my mind though is to write a blog post for the great fogginzo’s cobweb in which I explore the issues of writing ‘sequences’, for want of a better word.

I’m particularly interested in the fact that each of you have done substantial amounts of research into a reality that absorbs and excites and energises you. It may be a blind roadmaker, your forebears who you trace to the banks of the Tyne, Amazonia, medieval priests and criminals, or half-forgotten musical acts.

At some point you had to make a decision, or one was made for you. Where do I start? What’s the language, the structure, the voice of the teller….there comes a moment, as I found in writing about, say fallen angels, when you see a way through.

Would you be prepared to share some thoughts about the experience? A paragraph would do…or maybe it wouldn’t. It’ll make its own mind up, won’t it?

So, here they are, each one identifying a different way into, a way of shaping, what they urgently wanted to say. I’ve learned a remarkable amout from them, and I hope you will too.

Keith Hutson: On research and poetic form

routines

Here’s my response to your request. By all means share it with the others if you wish:

I’ve now written over 100 sonnets about music hall and variety performers, 30 of which have been published in a Poetry Salzburg pamphlet (Routines), more to be in a forthcoming Laureate’s Choice pamphlet, (Troupers). Quite a lot have been in journals and some have been placed etc in comps. And I’m going for 140 for a future full collection, Revival. So you could say I like sequences!

 

WHAT GOT ME STARTED? This is a subject that interests and excites me. That, for any sequence, is essential I think. You have to have a passion about your subject. You have to want to research it because you like getting lost in it, totally absorbed by it. I had an uncle who, when I was a kid, took me up and down the country to watch performers (comics mainly but other acts too) many in the twilight of their careers. I was too young to appreciate them, but something stuck – the theatre atmosphere, the audience reaction, the fascinating otherness of this world, the joy and suspense of it. As a young man with a love of comedy I became a Coronation Street scriptwriter and a gag writer for a lot of comedians – and from the wings I watched a lot of greats performing, holding an audience, sweating but not seeming to, staking so much of themselves on the night’s performance. This, to them, was life and death. I bloody loved it. So, as a poet with a desire to write a sustained body of work about one subject, this was right up my street.

 

WHERE TO BEGIN? The problem is, the wealth of material for any sequence can be overwhelming, it can cause paralysis. I focused on one person, Tommy Trinder, then intensified that focus further, to his catchphrase, You Lucky People. Then I thought, I’ll try to capture the essence of the man, his world, the people he entertained, but not as biog – biog can be boring. A poem should transcend its subject, shouldn’t it? But what form should this first poem take? Well, as I was essentially writing a love poem, and I wanted to keep it intense, concentrated, and to showcase a traditional performer, I thought ‘why not a fairly traditional, strict form sonnet for this first poem?’ People like Trinder performed routines. A sonnet is like a little routine. So I didn’t start writing to see where I ended up, I deliberately set out to write a sonnet. If you’re interested, here it is

 

You Lucky People

i.m. Tommy Trinder 1909-1989

 

One simple line and you could tread the boards

for years. Nobody cared it made no sense,

it was the look, the timing, not the words

that packed them in twice-nightly. And the chance

to mock some spot-lit nincompoop who seemed

more desperate than them – which made a change:

back then most buggers looked like they’d seen

better days. They hadn’t. So, in droves, we came

each season, scrubbed and buffed, to scoff, but dream

too: heavy-handed lives on hold, we’d bask

inside the twinkle of a grin, a glance;

industriously bellow out the laughs;

gaze up at more ridiculous routines

than ours. A softer kind of song and dance.

 

WHERE NEXT? I thought, right, I like the sonnet form for my artistes, so I’ll set myself the challenge of sticking to sonnets for, say, half a dozen more poems. But who to write about next? And do I stick to a combination of light comment about the performer with a broader social or personal comment? Yes, I thought, because I don’t want this to be a trip down memory lane by an anorak who wants to corner you and bore for England. I then read, and made notes, from several books, and also mined my memory for impressions of people I’d seen, heard about, worked with. I love research, it’s voluntary learning. I left school at sixteen and have been playing educational catch-up since, so I crave information, knowledge, and I want to lose myself in worlds. So, I knew I wanted to write sonnets, and I knew what about, and I didn’t care if anyone else liked them or not, I just wanted to do it. For me, strict form in poetry is a strait-jacket made by angels – it gives me the chance to be liberated by discipline, so I see the sonnet, terza rima, ballade, whatever, as my friends. But the doubt as to whether I could sustain the sonnet form again and again, and (though with variety) make them recognizable sonnets not just 14-line poems, both made me anxious and determined.

 

100 sonnets later, I’m still at it. It is a labour of love. It doesn’t feel like effort. So I’d say this about any sequence:

  1. Love your subject
  2. Keep it narrow and let it widen naturally.
  3. Don’t write biog (or not exclusively anyway)
  4. Don’t be frightened of humour (a lot of mine are funny and light)
  5. Don’t try to show off your knowledge, it puts people off.
  6. Research, research, research.
  7. Don’t care what people think about your poems, Know that what you’re doing has value because it has value to you.
  8. But you must entertain, in the broadest sense, or it becomes self-absorbed, and there’s too much of that in poetry – that’s why it’s a minority sport audience-wise.
  9. Why not try to stick to one form, at least to get you started? Push yourself.
  10. If you get bored with it, your readers will get bored too. Anyone can write a sequence, the ones that work do so because the poet cares about them and has the ability to convert that care into the right words.

 

Steve Ely : on voice and persona…who tells the story?

51rK-I9rNrL._SX326_BO1204203200_

Hi John

I organised my third book of poems, Incendium Amoris, around the figure of Richard Rolle, the 14th century hermit and mystic.  Rolle suited my purposes because he was associated with the Cistercian Priory of Hampole, which is located in my natal Barnsdale landscape, which remains an enduring obsession.  My previous two books had written public, political poetry out of that landscape.  I wanted my third book to reflect a more personal, autobiographical engagement.  Further, Rolle’s mystical writings are charged with an earthy carnality – his relationships, with God, women and the created order are often erotic in both the technical and popular senses of that word.  That suited me as well – my earliest concept of the book was that it was going to be about ‘shagging down the fields’.  I suppose I reinvented Richard to suit my purposes (and partially in my image) and used his life, writings and landscape to unify, inform and perhaps soften the guerilla-pastoral idiom that wouldn’t be suppressed and broke out anyway.

Mama-Amazonica-cover-with-PBS-Choice-192x300

 

Pascale Petit : On sequence and motif in Mama Amazonica 

 

My books grow organically, and Mama Amazonica grew very much like the Amazon rainforest it explores. But I can say that there was a single poem that set it all off, though I didn’t know it at the time, and this title poem ‘Mama Amazonica’ was slow and painful to write, laborious even. But there seemed to be an energy in it that was new, so I persisted, even though it felt like one of those experiments that will probably not work. I showed an early draft to my husband, who is my first reader, and he encouraged me, and suggested I could expand it. He was excited by it and this made me more confidant. At the heart of the poem, and indeed the whole book, is the central image of the poem, of a huge waterlily in a slow Amazonian backwater, the water still and sluggish, the drama unfolding of the lily’s sex life, which involves pollination by beetles. I compulsively watched every time-lapse video of this extraordinary process. The lily is my mother and she is in a psychiatric ward undergoing deep sleep therapy, remembering meeting my father.

 

To write the rest of the book – all 112 pages (and there were many more poems I discarded) – I would concentrate on the lily in that backwater, like a trance. I didn’t yet know why, but by the time I had written eight more poems I began to see that for once in my life I was writing about my mother tenderly. The poems express love, as well as terror of her and of what she suffered. It astonishes me that I have created a book in which I love my mother. I did not love her and she did not love me. This felt important, to have an artefact in which our relationship was transformed.

 

So I suppose what I’m saying is that the whole sequence grew out of one powerful feeling, trancelike, filmic, a moving image of a flower in time-lapse motion that is apart from ordinary life and ordinary time. I did not think the book through analytically or consciously even, just let the images grow, and the feelings that are also colours and sensations and pictures. Because the book records what happened to her when she met my father, the tragedy unfolds chronologically, and that’s roughly how the book is ordered, like a story told in pictures and sculptures.

 

I hope this helps? I suspect we all have different ways of compiling a sequential collection, but I try to do what what Rilke advises, to search within myself  to find my way, “Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write”.

 

Sometimes life gives you riches just for the asking. I feel a bit like one of those naive characters (usually girls…the male equivalents are often ‘fools’ or guizers) in folk tales  who set off into the forests and thickets and are given things of power that help them to survive and flourish. The possible keys to the kingdom. Form. Voice. Image/motif. I’m glad it’s three, if only for the sake of narrative convention.

I’ve looked back over some recent posts and find I’ve been teasing this strand out for some time. A reminder, then, of other ‘keys’ to sequences that I’ve considered. Kim Moore’s work in progress ‘All the men I never married’ tells you that the key could actually be a title! (and there’s her sequence at the heart of The Art of falling where the key is the mythic narratives of metamorphosis). Ruth Valentine and Christy Ducker show you that alpabetical order can be a key. Jane Kite uses the timeline of an imagined family as a key. The answer for you might be to find a narrator or to build a chronology. And how about objects. I’m attracted by the title of a book on my shelf as I look up: A history of the world in twelve maps. And also by Uncommon ground which is a list sequence of dialect names for landscape features..one page for each and an accompanying photo, organised geographically from the SW to the very far North.

Whatever, the basic problem will be that an interest became an enthusiam or an obsession, that involved research, that eventually needed to be given some sort of poetic shape. If I think a sequence is anything, I think it’s something that involved you in research. Or maybe not.

Thanks for reading all the way through. Thanks and ever thanks to Keith Hutson, Steve Ely and Pascale Petit for their time and amazing generosity. The least you can do is buy their books. If by a miracle you’ve not read their work before, a bibliography follows, and also links to Keith and to Steve in some earlier posts.

 

Pascale Petit’s Poetry

Icefall Climbing pamphlet (Smith Doorstop, 1994)

Heart of a Deer (Enitharmon, 1998)

Tying the Song Co-editor with Mimi Khalvati (Enitharmon, 2000)

The Zoo Father (Seren, 2001)

El Padre Zoológico/The Zoo Father (El Tucan, Mexico City, 2004)

The Huntress (Seren, 2005)

The Wounded Deer: Fourteen poems after Frida Kahlo pamphlet (Smith Doorstop, 2005)

The Treekeeper’s Tale (Seren, 2008)

What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren, UK, 2010, Black Lawrence Press, US, 2011)

Poetry from Art at Tate Modern editor, pamphlet (Tate Publications, 2010)

Fauverie (Seren, 2014)

Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe, 2017)

 

Steve Ely’s Poetry , Fiction, and Biography

Steve Ely has published four books of poetry,

Englaland (Smokestack Books, 2015)

Oswald’s Book of Hours (Smokestack Books, 2013).

Werewolf (Calder valley Poetry 2016)

Incendium Amoris (Smokestack 2017)

He’s also published a novel,

Ratmen (Blackheath Books, 2012),

and a biographical work,

Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015).

 

Keith Hutson

 His poems, apart from those in his current pamphlet, have been published in just about every poetry magazine and journal you can think of..including, recently, The Manhattan Review

Two posts involving Steve Ely’s work (and, ironically enough, some thoughts about sequences. I’d forgotten that)

https://johnfogginpoetry.com/2017/03/19/on-sequences-and-a-gem-revisited-steve-ely/

https://johnfogginpoetry.com/2015/08/30/knowing-your-place-a-polished-gem-8-steve-ely/

 

and two involving Keith Hutson

https://johnfogginpoetry.com/2015/02/28/stand-up-a-polished-gem-3-keith-hutson/

https://johnfogginpoetry.com/2017/07/16/through-the-looking-glass-1-and-a-gem-revisited-keith-hutson/

 

How are you feeling? Hospital poems (13)

While I’ve been putting these hospital posts together, one troubling memory bubbles to the surface. I’ve twice been in High Dependency doped up with morphine. It takes the pain away, but one side effect is disorientating dreams that morph happily into nightmare. Mine seems not especially disturbing when I describe it. In essence, the ward would somehow become a cross-Channel ferry, and particularly something like the car deck. The walls would constantly and unnervingly change position; spaces became notional and unreliable. I suspect this may have had something to do with the way the curtaining round each bed is constantly being closed and opened so that the ward is a space with an infinite number of rooms. Whatever it was, I dreaded it and the way it persisted for months afterwards. Which is why today’s poem struck me with a moment of instant recognition.

ocean_bg_cave_stock_by_moonglowlilly-d5mj3mq

 

Selkie Games  : Andy Humphrey

 

In the white room

a nurse holds my wrists,

dabs me with disinfectant-soaked cotton.

A kindly burning.

 

In the white room

I’m given a plastic cup

with a liquid that smells of blackberries

and tastes like soggy almonds.

 

In the white room

I’m allowed to dream

while two electrodes count the pulses in my brow,

two pens mark spikes on a chart.

 

And when I dream

the bed beneath me falls away

and I’m carried on cold fat rivers to the place

where the sea meets the sky;

 

and it’s there I discover

I can unzip my human skin,

stretch into a world of seaweed and blue

with fingers made for swimming.

 

They dance with me,

my sisters, among the reefs

where watching eyes will never spy us out.

We touch noses, kiss underwater;

 

our breath is bubbles

caught in a moonbeam’s glimmer,

our heartbeats follow the rising and falling

of every wave, each tide.

 

The dreaming stops.

I zip up my skin, return

to the white room. The too-bright world,

garish, cold in its glare.

 

I let them prod,

knowing they will never

unstitch me, never drown the aftertaste

of wet peat in my mouth.

 

Andy Humphrey lives in York; his poetry draws on images from nature, myth and fairytale to spin contemporary tales with an undercurrent of social comment. He has had more than 50 poems published in a wide range of journals, and won numerous poetry awards including seven First Prizes in UK and international competitions.

He writes short stories (under the name A.J. Humphrey with publication in Dark Tales, Scribble, and in anthologies from Earlyworks Press, Stairwell Books, Bridge House Publishing and Words magazine.

His debut poetry collection, A Long Way to Fall, was published in May 2013 by Lapwing Publications

 

How are you feeling? Hospital poems (12)

 

virus

The default assumption about hospital is that no-one wants to have to go in one, and that everyone who goes in is counting the seconds till they can go home again, and breathe air that’s not been pre-used by about 10,000 other not-very-well folk. Which is why I particularly liked today’s poem. As I read it, there’s a condition that can creep up on you like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Swaddled in clean blankets and sheets, blissed out on legal drugs, fed and cared for. I’ve never come near to this imagined state. But after this poem I understand it better

 

Virus  : Lydia Macpherson

 

A third floor room, the isolation

ward where slanted blinds

leak pearled aquarium light.

Green linoleum, the sedative hum

of nurses’ voices along the corridor,

the honeycomb Braille of cotton blankets.

Permitted boredom in the filtered air,

no flowers, no visitors, just the coming

and going of temperature taking,

the careful handling of the thread

of mercury against my teeth,

my pulse bulging eagerly against

a capable finger, the charts to map

a journey of abandonment.

Pills in tiny plastic cups washed down

with stale-ish cordial from ribbed jugs,

baths taken Cleopatra-style with

milky water and the dangling

promise of a red emergency cord

should things get out of hand.

A voluntary submission to the rule

of tea at 6am, Horlicks at dusk

and trays of school food to mark

the time passed in between.

 

The Petri dishes bloom in basement labs.

I want them to become a jungle of viruses,

I want to be tended here forever.

 

Lydia Macpherson

Lydia’s first collection, Love Me Do, won the Crashaw Prize for a debut collection in 2013. Love Me Do was published by Salt, Spring 2014. It is available to buy at Salt Publishing and from Amazon.

Lydia’s poems have appeared in many publications including Poetry London, The North, Poetry Wales and Magma. She has been placed and commended in various competitions, including second prize in the Edwin Morgan poetry competition in 2012.

She lives in Winchester .

 

 

 

How are you feeling? Hospital poems (11)

One of my uncles, a bit of a rough diamond and chancer, was in hospital in Leeds, dying (as it turned out) from lung cancer. We visited him..it was Christmas. The Salvation Army were doing the rounds. At this point I need to step carefully. I have great respect for the Sally Army, and a soft spot, too. I used to admire their chutzpah, doing the Friday night rounds of rough pubs, selling The War Cry. And my dad played cornet and trumpet in a Salvation Army band. So, there we were, the Sally Army singing carols around the wards, and confidently and sincerely announcing that Jesus Saves. My Uncle Tom swore at them so profanely and obscenely and loudly and so sustainedly it took a number of staff to restrain/subdue/quieten hhim. Which is why today’s poem rings a bell very loudly.

chaplain-praying-in-hospital

 

 

The God Squad   :   Rose Drew

 

 

Please don’t try to save my soul:

it is not lost;

 

please don’t hammer me with your views,

they aren’t mine;

 

please do not hound me down the hospital hall,

cries of “I prayed for you!”,

claiming Holy Credit for my health.

 

Please do not pull up chairs beside me,

removing the New York Times

that I was reading,

 

so you can ponder my emptiness,

my scary nights of no

Great God Mommy

come to tuck me in, salve my wounds,

put cool cloth on my brow,

stop it!

 

Go burn the sacred texts in some poor village,

knock down another False Idol that comforts heathens

whom you wish to save so they will not

burden you;

go remove all trace of the God of Peace, Good Yams,

Safe Motherhood, Plentiful Game, and install

your own God —

 

until the next God Squad

removes your spreading lichen views,

and chisels your Saints

from re-named temple walls.

 

from Temporary Safety (2011, Fighting Cock Press)

 

Rose Drew

Is an American, firmly based in York.She is a politically active poet and an anthropologist.  She has written a novella and a few short stories, but her other interest is in expressing her enthusiasm for human skeletal remains, and what they might tell us about life in the past.

She also writes non-fiction, both creative and academic. In early 2005, she and her partner Alan changed the direction of their tiny business Stairwell Books from printing out pamphlets for  readings, to a small press focusing on poetry. By 2007, they had also taken on prose, and now publish 10-15 books a year, both in print and e-formats.. Since 2011, Stairwell publishes Dream Catcher Magazine, which originated in York.