Me in Amber

Near the top of Three Maid’s Hill, in the din of russet pavements, light pierced like a diamond, caught the edge of purposeless leaves.

Whipped them, wild. Clattering up in eddies, delirious, absent-minded in the disturbed air between cars.

And it was my eyes which soothed them, which held them as we passed by. As though I were unique, as though the retina stain from a low flying sun could only belong to me.

The hill smiled, outlived me and everyone else, until all that remained were my thoughts, thinking. And may I be a memory of this place.

Our wheels were long gone. Leaves settled in the drains, they bunched up, held on tight to each other.

They knew what to do.

Falling Teacup White Robe

Cushion pushing tight into the twists,

the rumbles. Shh, time to sleep

I said before ears came.

The night, perched on the bed edge,

minutes like breaths, squeezing me.

My foreign body. Pulsing.

Weight of silence, an endless open mouth.

Yawning, howling.

Wait in darkness.

Shoe-horned into the car

under my tree, its soft reassurance,

resolve. Battered power

of an injured tiger.

Here, take my body,

it’s yours now.

Pummel me with

your ice cold faceless faces.

Watch me like a cat pawing bird

as I jolt, ricochets up my spine.

I don’t recognise myself

as they trolley me to the new room

with endless breasts which smother me.

Suffocate me in starched white.

I lay still in-between judders

with their walls and wires, lights that beep.

Daylight, hopeful smile on a wheeled-in tray.

Entonox is my friend, it brings me echoes,

fractured words and giggles

as her fingers inch.

Searching for news

but there is none.

Try again tomorrow, they say.

And I search the ceiling for a way out.

I’ve grown used to their window

though I cannot see outside.

One day there’ll be flowers on that table.

Another face on the end of the nth syringe.

I laugh and cry at the same time.

My turquoise bag reminds me of home,

it jars me.

She’ll be back later

and she drops a smile by the door.

Later the ceiling mocks me,

while they swab me clean

and tidy me away to nothing.

I may watch these walls

for the rest of my life.

You know night, that space

where everything sinks?

It takes me, leaves me shaking

in their hard backed chair,

drunk on spasms, they roll me over

strip me bare.

There, they lock the medicine away.

Tight lipped, they make me wait

till morning.

In daylight, pethidine is my best friend.

I call for surgeons,

but their absent hands upset me.

They sip tea on Sundays

while I rock, ridiculous,

a wretched remnant desperate for a gown.

Somewhere a woman wails,

disembodied hollering.

I wonder if she has flowers in her room.

I have no limbs now,

no head to call my own.

My pupa waits, watches the clock

push the hours, breath by breath,

my shadow up their wall.

Till everything bustles, they rush and prod,

watch over me in their Petri dish.

They tut-tut and poke.

Their needles search and pierce,

severing my pain.

I am numbness on plastic sheets,

chrome glints at my feet,

lights wink at me.

They concentrate and congregate,

explore me until teatime.

I give it my best shot.

Then I concede, consent to them,

give up, give out and give in.

I am aware of my breath,

my lungs expanding and contracting

by their green scrubs.

Their scorching lights and tinkering.

Brush the hair out of my eyes.

And where my abdomen used to be

the world opens, lilies start to bloom.

Loud and excitable, like a new heart beat.

Ceilings come and go under the sheer love.

Teoría de Ondas #4

There was a time when white sands flanked them on the left as they wandered, when the beach framed the bay, resplendent, calming like a long out breath.

At the end of the road by the market stalls, Matisse’s house stood, elegant and shuttered, perfect angles under the startling sun. And thinking about his paintings, how they seemed to be lit by the same insistent sun, as though the paint itself was lit from within.


And in one breath she lived there, russet skirts brushing the stairs as she came down in the morning. There would be no rush as she chattered with the stall holders. A smile and a joke and then with her basket full of nectarines and oranges she would drift away to the edge of the beach. And staring out to sea she would feel herself ripple and drink in the day.

And later back in Cannes the moment was frozen by a passerby, dressed head to toe in baby pink and tripping by her feet was her clipped poodle, dyed pink to match the owner. Woman and dog sparkling in the heat.

Their day was a vibrant palette, bright colours on each brush. It was a painting to stare into on dark chilled autumn mornings. And there, in the South of France she wore white and she seemed to be lit from within.

Temporal (All that Matters) #5

This, this now, this having slept 5 hours on diazapam and you’re propped up, wired up waiting for Johnny V, do you remember Johnny V ? Looked like Johnny Mathis in his way.

And you pulse, you brace, you ride the spasms as they come.

But Johnny brings fresh news and plans change yet again. And so you beamed at the prospect of a long day opening up ahead, of no need for surgery at all.

And it’s this kind of feeling, waiting for the needle team, for the back stab and their voices swirling, fading in and out.

And now, in the now, the warmth of cooking chocolate cake wafts up and frames the day. And you’re settled, softened to the carnival of colours in your head, to the moment when the needle took the pain away, to the sense of loss and separation from it all. And the minutes formed a day and early evening bought more work.

And now under the distant drone of passing planes, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that despite the pushing, your hours bled, theatre bound.

And there under green and lights, there in the clink of instruments, was the moment he came to be. Up and round and out, up and out, all pink and red and warm.

That moment, your time, all three together. Despite everything, all that matters is you came through.

Skin to skin and the sense of coming home.

Temporal (All that Matters) #4

It’s morning for others.

It has become day 4.

.And you you know you’re not one to give up, to give in, you know you’re known for soldering on but last night was one of surrender.

Last night was sitting in their hard seated, hard backed chair watching the line of light down the side of the door where the night shift staff moved and soft shoed. And you pressed the buzzer as you rocked.

It was Delise, you’re sure even now, she said her name was Delise, not Denise or Louise but Delise. But she was the one who took your hand when white shards shot up your spine and round your front, when the night pulsed in and found you sleepless, twitching, in the chair.

Delise was sorry that the medicines were locked away till morning.

.Morning happened for others.

Even now through the hours since that moment, you can feel it. And He was called in, rung early from his bed to stand there helpless.

So somehow day 4 had emerged but not for you, for you there was no break, no rest no sleep, just a string of moments, holding tight and holding on.

Morning.

Day 4

Drunk on lightning strikes around your form, and you let go, 

It’s that Sunday feeling, that not really having slept all week kind of time. And faces came, agreed to surgery but it was Sunday and no one was around.

Tomorrow though, they told you.

Tomorrow they’d prepare you, break some water for you, tomorrow they would scrub up and take you down.

Temporal (All that Matters)#3

And then it becomes the Saturday in your head, new nurse, new name, new plan and you try to see her face. Her hair, it’s dark, short and you find glimpses of her by the door, by the bed.

She prepares and you brace. And there’s a sense of being tethered somehow, like a child’s eager grasp on a balloon string. (The balloon is red) and somehow you float above your morning day-lit room, right now. Bobbing, weaving, deep inside the balloon, you live, young with spasms, tired with hope.

It plays out, looping like it did, like it will, shafts of light flicking up the dust particles and in each one you exist.

So you take a deep breath and they try again. It was morning, they were early, they will try two times today. Your balloon bobs, the spasms make their way around your body and it is Saturday there, on that bed, in room 3.

Temporal (All that Matters) #1

It’s that been-awake-throughout-the-night-belly-pulsing-tight kind of feeling. That scrawling-numbers-on-a scrap-of-paper-at-your-side kind of thing.

And you clamber and you stagger, grateful for the banisters that hold you up, thankful for the waiting car and helpful hands.

It’s that September-14th-early-morning-neighbours-taking-kids-to-school kind of moment when the spasms send white heat back up your spine. And you note the trees blurred on your journey, on the corner near the lights.

It’s that being-helped-back-out-the-car-and-to-a-wheelchair kind of morning and faces and corridors come and go and then you wait.

Yes, it’s that kind of waiting, kind of morning. That kind of primal knowing through the hours.

It’s a me-on-a-bed kind of feeling, buzzed with cortisol, fuzzed with lack of sleep kind of thing.

It’s a September-14th kind of feeling, that resolve kicking in, that start-of-the-longest-week kind of thing.

1999 – One More Gift

If she stared hard for a moment through her kitchen, past the kettle, to the wall, she would dissolve.

And as she breathed out she would see them, out for shopping in the dark. That after-Christmas-travel feel, that tired apprehension of the new and she wore red fleece. 

And she breathed out again, past her kettle to the tiles on the wall, the shadow under the cupboard formed a partition by the toaster and she dropped back. 

The carpark was lit up, late Christmas and busy people buying booze, but not herself. 
And she’d just pop next door first to the pharmacy, she’d catch him up, she said. 

The fittings have all gone now, the aisles and the shelves where she bent down, where she compared the products till she found one. 

And sometimes, even now when she’s in the supermarket by the clothes rails that extended into the place where she had knelt, she sees herself. She feels, she has no separation from that girl. 

And the heating throbs in the present, the radiator warms her where she stands but she’s not there. 

She’s crossing the carpark in tired ‘Christmas lights, and just later, she’s catching him up in the shop. He’s there putting new things in the trolley, treats for New Year’s Eve, though they’d be out.

She hurries up to join him and her hip rubs the inside of her jacket, on the right, where the packet in her pocket makes itself known to her. 

She feels how long her hair was, how dark and not like now and no one knew about the packet in her pocket but she did. 

And shopping would happen and trolleys filled and piled into the car. Then they’d be home. Taking bags in, rustling, planning and while he put the things away she crept upstairs.

And now. Even now. There are no moments in between that one and this and she is quivering and shaking and sees the handle on the door.

She seems to see everything as if for the first time, as if the minutiae of her world stopped by to say hello. To say ‘here we are, this is your life now,’ as if she’d woken from a dark place and now tiptoeing through to the end of the century, she was just coming home.

He was downstairs watching TV and somehow she wandered down their wooden stairs. They opened the shortbread a friend had given them and sat quiet, watching nonsense on the screen.

But she was sparkling on the inside and almost wondered if he could hear it, like a thousand tiny glass bells tinkling through her form. 

She stared out with no focus at the TV and one day later she would give him her perfect gift to end the year.

And now her kitchen lights shone down on her in her aging but she wasn’t there. She was sat next to him, she was shining.

Building Blocks

We sat together in the dappled light at the back of the bus and I noticed him staring out. Did he see what we called the Spelling Hill, like I did? Did his eyes rest on the pavements that we walked for years? I saw the trees, I recognised them even now, their shapes and they punctuated our journeys long ago.

And then the road curved and the bus trundled its way into town. We drove over the subway I painted, over the bright colours from primary school and I stood there with him, proud and young and we were all there together back then. 

We rattled, his secondary school came up on the left and was gone. The slope up to the gates, the Home Straight he called it and it seemed so small, so close to home. How could it have seemed such a massive step? Yet it was, back then. 

And down the hill towards the top of town and past the hospital where I half look. And there’s the wall that I rushed past on that winter morning, coat flapping, heart pounding into the doors and the black caverns they contained.

Nineteen years ago I sat propped up in a bed, a bed-guard to my side so I could feed him where I lay and I held him but now we sit side by side in silence, a packaged-up toy at his feet. I’ll post it later. I had folded the bricks into tiny bags, with care, in colour order, I thanked them and went on my way. And now someone else I’ll never know will open the box soon and build, but not us, not with those toys.

The hospital fades and to my left I see the new builds, the expensive apartments and the cranes and steel. Their branding is loud, insistent and a huge sign comes into view, it says ‘Discover Your New Life.’ I focus on the words and pull each one into me, as though every letter was illuminated and then we pass.

The train station arrives and with it, the site of him marching off to college, to the right, under the bridge and away – but not today. Even that mass of buildings which I visited twice seems small and close, just here, in our town, by the station. Local.

We hold the parcelled-up toy between us, taking turns to lift it as he works the ticket machine and as I  pay and collect tickets for him. A pass the parcel game with no forfeits.

Outside at the front amongst the taxis and the rushing people, we pause, we stand huddled to check on what we’ve just done. One of the returns tickets is missing, so while he waits, holding onto the toy, I go back inside and resolve it. The ticket master is kind, he looks like a young Rob Brydon and everything feels alright. 

Back outside I notice a man to my left, and he wears my husband’s clothes, his head, with a similar angle and his stance. I find myself staring but pull myself away, back to our son but I am caught up. I am a tangled mess in a moment that didn’t happen, in a parallel time where my husband stood there helping us. And I reeled. I shattered on the inside as we moved away from him.

On the bus home and from my vantage point at the back, I note the heads, the strangers swaying as we turn up the hill, our son sat with the toy parcel, two seats away and to the right, there’s a soft, gentle tembling of a lady with Parkinson’s. I want to hold her. I want to get up and with no words, slip onto the the seat by her side. I want to hug her, to ease her till the shaking fades, but I can’t. I hold her with my eyes instead and wait for my stop. 
I will take the parcel from our son and while he makes his way back home, I’ll walk up to the Post Office and sign it over to someone else. 

We rounded the island, the out of date sunshine lit up the bus and strangers jiggled, most in silence, lost in their own worlds. I watched the back of our son’s head, I remember the curve of his skin behind his ear, I used to see it when I first fed him but not now. Now it’s covered in long hair and he looks out left. 

Behind me, in the very back seat, a tiny girl sings out, she is free, oblivious to others, and her voice fills the space. She is full of joy for her journey, she is out and ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round‘ she tells everyone. Some zone her out, others smile and I see how perfect it all is. 

Soon, sooner than she realises, she’ll be sat on a bus with her mother, with train tickets to University in her bag and they’ll prepare. It will be soon and though they know that they have years right now, it will disperse before their eyes, it will seep away and ripple out through time. Then they’ll be me, then they’ll be us, sat on a bus marking memory. 

I press the bell and the bus slows down, as I wobble, clutching the pole, I take the parcel from out son. His warm fingers let it slip from his grasp and now it’s mine. I step from the bus and glance up but I can’t see him, the light masks my view but he’s there somewhere heading home. At the Post Office while I pay, I think of the bricks and bits of plastic tucked inside, I think of our games and the things we created. I hand it over, it belongs to someone else now and as I leave, I lock eyes with a tethered red setter and I have that sense that even the animals know what I’m thinking. 

Nearing home I cut under the subway I painted, it shines out despite the years, despite the hours since we stood there grinning into the lens. And then I turn, left and right and almost back. At home, our son will have beaten me too it, he’ll be practicing keyboard, he’s got a concert coming up. I imagine him smaller, kneeling by a smaller keyboard, learning Jingle Bells and now he’s in the opposite corner on a piano, hair shoved behind his ears, fingers blurring and outside on the patio, my titanic rose has come into bloom. It reverberates with his rhythms and I quicken my step. 

In the pathways behind our home, the council have been out, they’ve mowed the grass. It makes my nose run, my eyes pool up. Remnants of its growth are everywhere, they carpet my route like confetti, in a celebration of movement and time.
We’re nearly ready and tomorrow our son will use the tickets we’ve just bought to head to University and as my feet push the pavement, my eyes start to run a  little more.

Wheels turn round and round, making complete revolutions and we are fine. We will be fine. We are fluid. We’ve got this. ❤️

Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry

And he was born, imagine that? He was born.

Out and up, into the world of senses where he felt and he saw and he heard. He moved. Limbs wriggled and grasped and neurones leapt and charged and pulsed. And his mind whirred like a great churning machine, like a creature that resonated with the knowledge it consumed and so he grew.

And he grew and expanded until the sphere of his world touched mine and we collided and we merged and we entwined.

And our lives that we lived sparked new life and he was born. And I glow, I reverberate to the beat of his heart. Out there now, seeing and feeling, hearing and moving, making his mark on his world. Neurones firing, ideas churning.

And I think and feel and hear a new born cry. He was born, dear God, he was born.

Without that breath, I would not be here, without his view of the world, I could not dance, without his perception of the world I would not think in these circles, in these layers. Without that life I would not be, I would not be here as I am.

And so his mother lived and she gave birth to him. And he was born and we met and we merged.

And I gave birth because of him, and we lived then and we live still, and we breathe and we thrive.

He was born, dear God, he was born. And on a bright day in March he appeared at my door and we smiled and I welcomed him in.