Old Friends

Searching through my mountain of memory sticks, looking for a set of photos I took last summer for a poetry booklet but seem to have deleted, I’ve come across several pieces I’ve written over the years and then forgotten.  Digital copies of annual Christmas letters, story outlines, opening paragraphs, over-heard conversations that were too good to go to waste, full stories in a few cases and even the odd bit of poetry.  I say odd – all the work was written pre the MA course and reading through them, I’ve spotted heaps of things that are weak with each one.  But heaps of things that are good, too, not least the fact that there is so much of it.  To think that all this time I’ve told myself that I’m not a writer and that I never have time to write.

Some of the writing is pure emotion, written to get anger or pain or heartbreak out of my head to stop it poisoning me, and as such, I wouldn’t want to share it.  But here’s a poem that I’ll allow to see the light of day.  I’ve brushed its hair a bit and re-tied its shoelaces, giving it a final tickle of ‘you’ll do’ under the chin, but I would ask you to look kindly on it as it being a very young child.


In the shower I cannot hear
children playing,
shouting, screeching,
bouncing on beds,
climbing in cupboards,
running in bedrooms and scrapping
and screaming.

Torrents of water hide
rumblings of anger,
the snapping of temper,
of paper-thin tolerance,
the crack of the whip
of paternity tested.

In here, I hide.
I wash.  I turn and swill.
Suds and tranquillity sluice
down the plughole,
delaying the time to re-clothe
and resurface.

The shower clears its throat.
Steam shifts, hair-curtains part.
Myopia fades and noises invade
and I hear –

Birthday Girl

Sixteen years ago around about now my waters broke and I was aware that my daughter, my first child, was on her way.  She turned up around 13 hours later, head contorted to the shape of the contraption used to pull her out of me and whooshing into a room full of medical professionals concerned about her flagging vital signs.  All evening she has been celebrating this significant anniversary with a group of boisterous, noisy friends – partly sans adultes in a local restaurant and partly listening to loud music and playing games here in our home.  I have celebrated this significant anniversary by hiding in the dining room and trying to write despite the commotion.  Here is the fruit of my labours, with apologies for it still being more than a little rough:

“It’s a boy,” your father said, his face pushed
through the blue-gowned army
round the bed who pulled
you into life.  “Can’t you see?”
your masked-deliverer said and raised
you like a prize, the error revealed,
your female form displayed,
and weak with tiredness and pride,
we cried tears of joy, your father and I,
allegiance transferred as quick  
as the blanket-swaddled heartbeat
firm beneath his hand.

He held you first: till then you had been mine,
though never really mine nor his
just borrowed for a time,
your love the thing that binds us to you, pains us,
brings a joy we cannot put a value
on.  And you?  You look ahead and strain
to walk a pace our steady, guiding hands
no longer keep.  One day you’ll go and
then, no doubt, we’ll weep but know that it is right
and good you should.  No backward glance –
you owe us nothing; that much
we have always understood.

But sometimes, sometimes still, a flicker
in your rare un-made-up face recalls a time
when once I was the moulder of your day,
the watcher of your dreams,
the keeper of the key to your world
as you, child, have been of mine.