It’s been a whole two weeks since I last posted – so apologies to anybody who was waiting for the Sunday Poem. I didn’t feel up to writing anything last weekend so decided to give it a miss.
I had another gall bladder attack the day after writing my last blog. I went to rehearsal on Monday with the soul band but didn’t feel quite right. I sat down for the whole rehearsal and was getting a few sharp pains, which then got worse, so I ended up back down at A & E at midnight with my husband.
It was a different pain to last time – it kind of came and went. When it was here, it was bloody awful. Then after about ten minutes it went. I was so tired and just wanted to go to sleep. I kept saying to my husband ‘I think it’s gone now, maybe we should just go home’. Then it would come back again and I would be trying not to scream. Luckily my husband refused to let me go back home.
We were waiting for four hours in A & E this time. It was absolutely manic when we got there – not just adults waiting to be seen, but quite a few children and people being brought in by the police.
I thought my last time in hospital was pretty awful but this time the pain was much worse. I eventually went up to Ward 4 again at about 5.30am. I don’t remember much about that, except it seemed like the bay, as I was wheeled in was very shadowy. I was really upset because I couldn’t stop being sick – in fact the poor people in the same bay as me had to put up with me being sick while their breakfast was being dished up.
There were four women in my bay and they were all really friendly and kind to me as soon as I got there. The other women were a lot older than me, but I had some lovely conversations with them, and even had a good laugh with them on occasion as well. One of the women had dementia, but most of the time, she wasn’t aware that she had it, and was in good spirits. She always came out with some brilliant lines – she said to a doctor ‘Ooh, haven’t you got a big bottom?’ and to a nurse:’What are you going to do about your boobs?’ ‘What do you mean?’ said the nurse. ‘Well, one’s up and one’s down.’
I put my earphones in at this point because I was laughing so much I was crying, and at this point, I’d had my operation as well, which made it immensely painful to laugh.
One night a woman was bought in who had obvious mental health problems, and she was getting up in the middle of the night and creeping around the ward, which was very frightening. I lay until about 2.30am with my buzzer in my hand in case she came near me. She ran out of our bay and ripped a fire extinguisher off the wall and tried to attack the nurses with it, then she ran back in shouting that we were all dead, as in she thought we were all dead bodies!
Eventually she had to be removed by security. Even throughout all of this, the hospital staff were brilliant. They protected everybody else, but they were kind but firm with the woman, even after she’d attacked them. I think it was pretty normal for them to have to deal with stuff like this.
One of the other women on the ward passed out, but at the time, a nurse who was with her didn’t know what had happened and pulled the alarm chord. Within seconds there were maybe ten or fifteen doctors and nurses with her – I don’t know where they all came from. I think they suspected that she’d died because the ECG machine was set up – I think it’s an ECG machine. They pulled the curtains around our beds but you can still hear the ‘Stand clear’ of the machine. I sat there and sobbed and felt – I don’t know how to explain it – selfish for crying, when I didn’t really know her. It felt like I didn’t have a right to be upset. But when I’d been down having my operation, this woman who I will call M, had kept asking when I was coming back, and whether there had been any news, because the op took twice as long as it should have. I honestly thought death was in the room, and the sight of the nurses rushing towards it, rather than freezing, or crying like I was, I will never forget it.
I had my operation on Tuesday morning. I didn’t expect it to take me so long to recover. I’ve never been in a situation where my body won’t do what I want it to do. I was in agony getting out of bed – even now, I have to do a sideways roll to get up without any pain. It has just been the most bizarre experience ever. This sounds cheesy as well, but I do feel changed by the whole thing. Not by the operation, which is just one of those things that you have to get on with, but by witnessing acts of kindness and compassion, basically non-stop for four days.
My parents came up to see me in hospital and stayed until last Saturday night. I’ve basically been resting since then and trying to take it very easy, but by Friday, I felt well enough to see my friend perform in the show ‘Made in Dagenham’ at Form 28, which I really enjoyed. It was a bit embarrassing moving around at the speed of a snail, but I hoped people would just think I was terribly hungover. On Saturday, I went to see my friend Keith Hutson perform at A Poem and a Pint. For the first week after the operation I worked out I could manage one thing a day i.e going to see a show in the evening, and then my body would basically shut down and refuse to do anything else.
I do feel a bit sad about having to cancel things again – I had a Soul Survivors gig two days after my operation. One of my students stepped in and covered for me. I had to miss Keith’s Manchester launch, and miss my teaching at university for two weeks in a row. I had to cancel my reading at Maryport Literature Festival last Sunday. I’m really hoping now that it is all over and I can get back to my normal life.
I’m feeling a lot better now – pretty much back to normal – except it still hurts if I have to pick things up from the floor so I’m trying not to do that at the minute. And I’m still getting tired a lot easier than I usually do, which has been very difficult to get used to.
I did my first bit of work since the whole thing happened last Friday – just a two hour workshop with Dove Cottage Young Poets. Eight new young poets turned up which I’m really happy about, as all of the group apart from two have gone off to university now. I was shattered when I’d finished though, but they seemed to enjoy it, so fingers crossed they come back to the next session.
Yesterday I did a bit more work – Peter and Ann Sansom have asked me to put together a selection of poems from the original Dove Cottage Young Poets to publish in The North, after hearing the young poets performing at Kendal Poetry Festival. So each of the seven who sent poems will have two poems each in the magazine which I think comes out in January. I finished off editing the poems and writing a short prose piece to go with them yesterday, a little bit late for my original deadline, but luckily in time for the issue.
I’ve also had some good news today – Gerry Cambridge has accepted two poems for The Dark Horse magazine. I subscribed to the magazine last year, and kind of fell in love with it. Gerry Cambridge wrote an editorial which included some thoughts on the prize-giving culture, and then there was an essay by Kathryn Gray on this subject, which was really interesting. I’ve not been in the magazine before, so I’m really pleased about this one.
This week’s Sunday Poem is by a poet called Laura Potts. I only heard about Laura’s poetry through my friend John Foggin. Laura sent me some really interesting poems to consider for the blog and I’m very happy to be posting ‘Sweet Autumn’ this week.
Laura Potts is a Yorkshire-based poet and is currently an English Literature student at The University of York. She has twice been named a London Foyle Young Poet of the Year and Young Writer, and in 2014 became a Lieder Poet at the University of Leeds. In her spare time she is editor of creativity at The Yorker, promoting spoken word and emerging writers around the UK. Laura has just returned from studying at The University of Cape Town, South Africa, and from working at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace, Swansea.
One of the things I really liked about Laura’s work was the way she uses sentences. The first sentence seems as if it starts mid-thought, but then the next three, are very definite statements. She pins the image down to one line, and then moves onto the next line, allowing the reader to bring something of their own to the poem.
I also like some of the verbs that Laura uses. It reminded me of a lecture I had when I was at MMU doing an MA. Carol-Ann Duffy said that ‘verbs are the engine of the poem.’ Well, look at stanza 2 – Laura could have used ‘washed’ in the third line, but ‘Rain argued away the grass-stained/fingerprints’ is so much more interesting than ‘Rain washed away the grass-stained/fingerprints’.
At the start of the poem, I wasn’t sure whether the ‘you’ that is addressed has actually been seen at the bus stop. As I read onwards, I became convinced that the poem is a recollection of a childhood, or teenage love, that the ‘you’ is only seen ‘at the curb of my sleep’. In fact the poem says that the speaker only meets the ‘you’ in sleep, when the ‘you’ is as they used to be.
It is a fantastic poem, full of little twists and turns that keep it interesting. There is obviously tenderness for the ‘you’ still – the use of ‘Darling’ and ‘Sweetheart’. The ending was very surprising as well – and gives the addressed ‘you’ a kind of seediness, that the rest of the poem doesn’t hint at.
Thanks to Laura for allowing me to post her poem, and for being patient with the various delays before this has been posted.
And years later, you at the bus stop.
Yesterday’s leaves in your hair.
The seat where we laughed.
Our words in the air.
Sweetheart. The years threaded up
our names scratched on the grass.
Rain argued away the grass-stained
fingerprints, the love turned over
on clumsy tongues, the moonbows,
the flimsy suns. My skin soft-tossed
in sheets, hard-kissed. The taste
of your words. The clench of my fist
in the deafening dawn. Oh day,
when the pavement rolled beneath
our feet. Bubblegum from the shop.
My Monet mouth, your Friday chips –
Stop. Darling, how we used to crease
at the waist. Pink and white laughter
poured from our lips. And when I meet
you at the curb of my sleep it is when
we were here, my heart in your hands,
your hands on my dress. They said you
spilt your filth down telephone wires.
Cheap love. Sex. I wouldn’t know.
I walked away. Like this. Yes.