Tag Archives: The North

Sunday Poem – Laura Potts

Sunday Poem – Laura Potts

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.

Sweet Autumn

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.








Sunday Poem – Mark Carson


hove-toIt’s been my first week back at my job as a peripatetic teacher this week.  I’ve been doing this job for 12 years now – I can’t quite believe it’s been that long.  It feels different this year though because I’m only working 2 days a week, so technically I have more days as a poet than I do as a music teacher.  Last week I only actually did 1 day of teaching because I was away for a kind of training day for a new exciting project that I’m not allowed to say anything about.  So I’d better not – but that day away made it seem like the week went by very fast.

The rest of my week was made up of the usual mix of random things – a meeting with Pauline Yarwood about Kendal Poetry Festival, which we’re slowly starting to put together.  We’ve managed to secure a venue for the festival, which is going to take place at Abbott Hall Art Gallery, hopefully in June next year.  We’re now at the stage of finalising a first application for funding.  It is a load of hard work putting a festival together!  That might sound really obvious, but I didn’t realise how hard it was until we started.  It still feels very much like an uphill struggle at the moment, and we both have to keep telling each other that we are making progress.  We’ve got a draft programme, a venue and a nearly completed funding application so we are on our way!

I also drove to Preston with Mrs A to pick up a baby Eb Bass for the junior band which someone was selling on Facebook.  While we were there, I also bought a tenor horn as well – always a useful thing to have in the cupboard!

On Wednesday I took part in the Ulverston 5k and ran round with my friend Ian, who would usually be too fast for me to keep up with.  However he has took it upon himself this week to do some DIY and managed to stand on a nail which has slowed him down a bit, so he agreed to pace me round the course.  My best time for 5k, on the same course last year was 22 minutes and 54 seconds, so I thought a sensible time to go for would be 22 and a half minutes.  Ian had other ideas however.

I finished in a time of 21 minutes and 55 seconds which I was absolutely chuffed with – not only because I knocked nearly a minute off my time, but also because I’d broken the 22 minute barrier, which I didn’t think I would do this year.  It was a very fast course, and I don’t think I’ve got the mental discipline or the confidence to do it on my own yet.  Ian was convinced I could have gone faster, because every time he told me to ‘get on his shoulder’ I did it.  I tried to explain that this wasn’t because it was easy, it’s just that I’m obedient…

Anyway, that little effort put me completely out of action for the next day and I spent most of it in the garden, lying on my hammock.  I was quite relieved it was my day off and I decided to not do any writing but just to spend the whole day reading.  I actually fell asleep in the hammock and only woke up because the dogs ran out barking at a cat that was peering over the fence.

On Thursday night I went for another run (probably foolishly – but routines must be upheld) and then went to quintet rehearsal.   The other thing that happened this week is the quintet I run – the South Lakes Brass Ensemble were booked to play at a 30th anniversary dinner at the Coronation Hall.  We only had a couple of days notice as the people who booked us to play had been let down at the last minute, so I was pleased with how the gig went.

On Friday, I was running Dove Cottage Young Poets and then I went straight from there to Settle, where I was due to be reading that night with Meg Peacocke.  Traffic coming out of Kendal meant I was late arriving to the organiser’s house who had made lovely soup and laid out salad and bread and cheese and all sorts of lovely things, but I did manage to scoff some food.

Reading with Meg was lovely and the audience were really welcoming and friendly.  I managed to sell 8 copies of The Art of Falling and two If We Could Speak Like Wolves which I thought was good going.  I read from a lot of new poems in the second half, and in retrospect, I think that might have been a mistake.  I think next time, when I have two 20 minute sets, it would be better to mix the new poems up with the poems from the book.  The poems from the book can act as the scaffold then, to hold the new poems steady.  You live and you learn though!

Today I’ve been for a 15 kilometre run.  I’m trying to get one long run in each week in preparation for the Lancaster Half Marathon which I’m doing the first weekend in November.  If I manage it, it will be the first half marathon that I’ve done with a few long runs in the bag before hand and I’m hoping this will translate into an improved time.  Last year I ran 1 hour 52 minutes – this year I’d love to get as close to 1 hour 45 minutes as possible, although that seems like an impossible task, to take seven minutes off.

A few reviews are starting to come in for The Art of Falling.  David Cooke has reviewed my book alongside collections by William Bedford and Patricia McCarthy in the recent issue of The North.  Matthew Stewart has also written a really perceptive and generous review over on his blog Rogue Strands.  There will be a review essay about the book appearing in the next issue of Poetry Salzburg and they have also taken a new poem to publish alongside the essay – the first one I’ve had published since the collection came out.  This is my own lazy fault, as I have been hoarding poems instead of submitting them.

I’m feeling quite lazy at the minute.  Although it doesn’t sound like it when I list what I’ve been doing, I’ve actually spent a bit more time this week deliberately resting.  I am prone when I’ve been ill to getting post-viral fatigue syndrome, so after the cold I’ve had I’ve been trying to take it a bit easier.  I know running 15k isn’t taking it easier, but I’ve been doing the minimum amount of emailing I can get away with.  I’ve also been trying to keep away from social media a little bit.  I’ve been posting on Facebook and Twitter probably just as much as usual, but I’ve been trying to stop wasting so much time scrolling down newsfeeds.  I must admit, I decided to do this after reading Anthony Wilson’s blog – at the minute he has taken himself off Twitter.  I don’t want to come off completely, but I remember when I was younger, I used to walk around the house with a book in front of my face reading.  The last thing I did at night before I went to sleep would be to read.  Now, the last thing I do is check Facebook and Twitter.  So I’d like to get back to reading more.  Plus, my shelf of books that I haven’t read yet is getting seriously crowded and I’m getting further and further behind.

Which leads me nicely onto the Sunday Poem for this week, which is by my good friend Mark Carson.  I’ve been friends with Mark for as long as I’ve been writing.  I don’t quite know how many years that will be now but Mark was at the first writing group, Fourth Monday Poets that I pitched up at.  We are now in two writing groups together – Barrow Writers and Brewery Poets.  He is also on the committee for A Poem and a Pint, taking on the least popular job of treasurer.  Mark is a lovely man – very kind and generous with a great sense of humour.  He has spent many, many years supporting other people with their work, including me, and I have never heard him be anything but enthusiastic and pleased at the news of other people’s success – and he really means it – he isn’t pretending!  He travels widely to attend readings in Cumbria and Lancaster, again to support other people’s readings, but he is also a very good poet.  He has been working quietly away at his poetry, sending submissions out and resending them if they come back without fuss or complaint.  He works hard at his writing but he is not the type of person to write a blog about it! Luckily he has me to fill that gap for him!  He has been on the blog before, and I’m sure I said similar things that time too – but this time Mark has a pamphlet out with Mike Barlow’s Wayleave Press.  The press has been going a year and Mike has already published some fantastic pamphlets but I was really pleased when I heard Mark was going to have his own pamphlet out.

Mark’s pamphlet is called Hove-to is a State of Mind and the poems draw on his Irish roots, a career as an ocean engineer and time spent in Africa. Mark also told me some interesting facts about the pamphlet, which might be of interest to those people putting together their own pamphlet.  One of the poems, Per Ardua ad Nauseam, dates back from 1980 (here is that hard work thing I’ve been talking about).  One of the poems collected 18 rejections before finally being published (here’s that hard work again).

Mark’s poems have been published in various poetry magazines – I can’t tell you which ones because he has been very modest in his biography and not listed them but I know one of the magazines he’s appeared in is Other Poetry.  He’s also done well in competitions – a commended in The Troubadour Competition in 2011 and the poem I’ve chosen for the blog this week ‘Donegal’ was longlisted in the 2013 National Poetry Competition.

I’ve always loved this poem, since the first time I heard Mark read it.  He evokes the place very powerfully, with those details that tumble after each other – the ‘crunching’ of the shingle, the light as it ‘bleeds into dark’ and the ‘thin wedges of cloud’.  These are all lovely, sensuous lines, but this is not just a poem about place.  It has a real mystery – we don’t know why the ‘I’ is walking the beach ‘for the last time’.   We don’t know why the ‘I’ is leaving.

This poem has a real loneliness, or a sense of the outsider to it.  That lovely word ‘sneck’ and the yellow light from the cottage make the cottage seem like a warm, inviting place, that is until we get to the last line of the second stanza and the reference to the people inside ‘murmuring’ secrets.

The last stanza though is the strangest – again the vocabulary is really rich – lots of lovely words – ‘curragh’ and ‘kelp’ and ‘bladderwrack’.  And the mystery of this stanza – why does he need a ‘wet brown cow’.  Where is he going?

Mark possibly has one of the most interesting biographies of any poet I’ve feature here –

Born in Belfast and educated in Dublin, Mark Carson went to Cambridge to do a PhD – Corrugation and the Dynamics of Rolling Contact –­ which should have led to a career in railway engineering. Instead he joined the National Institute of Oceanography, giving engineering support to geophysicists, marine biologists and meteorologists, and spending quite a lot of time at sea.

Later he went to Nairobi University as a teacher of engineering, only to return to Cumbria where he co-founded an offshore engineering software business, Orcina Ltd.

I hope you enjoy the poem, and if you would like to order Mark’s pamphlet you can order it here, direct from the publisher. Mark is also available for readings – get in touch with him through his publisher.  He enjoys performing and he is a great reader of his work and very good company!

Mark will be launching his pamphlet at Ford Park, Ulverston on the 8th October at 7.30pm.  There will also be music from Braddyll Friends and the South Lakes Brass Ensemble! What’s not to like?

Donegal – Mark Carson

I am walking the beach, for the last time crunching the shingle –
though the sun sank hours ago, light still bleeds into dark
and the trails of geese are stretched to the farthermost island,
thin wedges of cloud are nudging into the west.

Hear from the headland the sneck click and hinge squeak;
yellow light spills on the grass from the door of the cottage;
the dog makes his snuffling round, while murmuring speech
leaks secrets I don’t wish to know across inlets.

Bring me a curragh and a crew of hard-armed lads
and a wet brown cow with a bucket of kelp and bladderwrack.
We’ll push out bravely into the inky waters
and the oar’s creak will blend with the wingbeat of swans.

Sunday Poem – Pauline Yarwood


This week I almost decided to write another blog post half way through the week so that this one would not be as long, but I didn’t.  Now, starting this at 8.30pm on Sunday night, I’m regretting my earlier tardiness.  Plus the X factor is on which is a little distracting – I like the audition stage when everyone is still quite raw and quirky, before they get manicured and prepped to within an inch of their lives.  Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted my weakness for the X factor – what about if I promise to never mention the X factor within these pages again?

So this week I’ve been in Penrith on Monday and Tuesday for two teacher training or Inset days.  It’s nice to see the other music service staff – because we are so spread out around the country we don’t get to see each other very much, but I’m sure I’m speaking for EVERYONE when I say by the time the end of Tuesday came we had all had enough of each other and were ready to go home…

On Monday I went with my twin sister Jody to Ulverston and we had something to eat and then had a cup of tea in Natterjacks which is this lovely late night cafe – who knew that Ulverston had such a thing?  We were killing a bit of time between the end of Inset and our South Lakes Brass Ensemble rehearsal in Penny Bridge.  In the cafe there is artwork for sale and some of the tables and chairs are even for sale and they have books and magazines and board games.  Jody found a pack of cards and bullied me into playing this card game which I don’t think I’ve played since I was 15 – and I’d completely and utterly forgotten about it – although forgotten implies that it was there and I just wasn’t thinking about it – but it was like this card game had been erased from my brain, but as soon as we started playing I did remember it – we used to play it ALL THE TIME – for hours and hours on end.  I can’t even remember the name of it now.  I’m looking over at the husband who is innocently listening to his audio book with his headphones in whilst the adverts are on and decide I will bully him into playing it with me too before the night is over.  I’ve just asked him and apparently he has packed them away!  For those of you that have missed the moving saga – we were meant to move house a week ago..now it is vaguely meant to be happening on the 15th but I’m not holding my breath.

On Wednesday the school term officially starts but only one of my schools wanted me in so I did 2 hours of teaching in the afternoon and then did a 5 mile run in the evening with Walney Wind Cheetahs.  I spent most of Wednesday trying to sort out my powerpoints for work – they are in a complete mess due to my habit of losing and then finding my pen drives which they are stored on.

And then it was Thursday and Friday which are officially now my Poetry days with a capital P.  This Thursday I did some work preparing for my stint as Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival.  I only managed to plan one workshop however – I don’t quite know now what I was doing for the rest of the day – apart from walking the dogs and eating of course.  Anyway, the workshop that is planned and organised can be found here but a couple of days ago when I checked there were only two places left on it so you will have to move quick.

I’m doing lots of other stuff at the festival but I think that needs another blog post.  So Thursday consisted of running in the morning – another five miles, planning workshop, eating lunch, walking dogs and then I went to Ulverston Library and played the Last Post to start off another commemoration to World War 1.

On Friday morning I planned my Young Writers workshop, paid the largest amount of money I’ve ever paid to the solicitors and then went to Kendal to run the young writers group.  We did quite a complicated extended exercise and halfway through I started to think that it was too difficult – but to their credit, the girls persevered and wrote some exceptional stuff – so that made it worth getting out of bed.  Then it was straight back for another quintet practice to really make sure we’re ready for this wedding fayre next weekend!

On Saturday I did park run again and beat my PB by three seconds (hurrah!) in the world of running this is considered good and I did start off thinking I was just going to take it easy but then changed my mind after the first kilometre.  I got back and for some reason thought I was due to be at the bandstand in the park playing with the Barrow Steelworks Band and after having a shower, sat on the doorstep for twenty minutes waiting to be picked up before ringing and finding out it wasn’t until Sunday…what a muppet I am.  I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon sorting through some free band music I’d been given, putting it in bags, a bag for my sister for her junior band, a bag with music suitable for my beginner band, a bag with music suitable for Barrow Shipyard Band and then a bag of music suitable for nobody in this century.  The husband rang to tell me he was two hours drive away – he’d been cycling with a friend, and I decided it would be a great idea to walk out of Barrow and meet him at the car park at Roanhead beach.  It was a beautiful walk even though it was a bit windy, I could see for miles along the beach, and I felt very lucky to be living where I live. But maybe two hours of walking after sprinting three miles was a little excessive.

Which brings us to today which has been full as well – I went for a run this morning with the Walney Wind Cheetahs and we had the most amazing weather – lovely sunshine but enough wind to make it not too hot.  We ran 6 miles with lots of hills and I definitely felt the two hours walking and the park run were still sitting heavy in my legs but I really enjoyed the run.  And today was the concert at the park that I was meant to be doing with the Barrow Steelworks band so again I sat on the doorstep and this time, did get picked up and taken to the park.

Thank you all for reading this far – I often think if you get this far through this meandering waffle then you deserve a medal, but I don’t have one, but you can have a poem instead!  This time courtesy of Pauline Yarwood, a lovely lady I first met – I don’t know when we first met.  It could have been in a workshop at the Wordsworth Trust, or maybe it was at one of the Tuesday readings in Grasmere which Pauline regularly attends.  It might have been at Brewery Poets, a monthly writing group that Pauline attends and organises along with another poet, Trish Pogson.  Anyway the point is, I can’t remember – it feels like I’ve always known Pauline, since I first started writing.  Maybe she will remember!

So I know Pauline’s work quite well – I’ve read her poems at Brewery Poets – I’ve seen how hard she works at her poetry, how she takes and responds to suggestions.  I’ve also seen the deep interest and enthusiasm she has for poetry, demonstrated by her loyal attendance at various poetry readings all over the place and her commitment to the writing group.  I’ve also seen in the last couple of months how her confidence has finally started to grow in line with the quality of her poetry!  Pauline has had work recently published in The Firecrane, The Interpreter’s House and The North.  Pauline taught English and Ceramics and now has her own workshop in the Lyth Valley where she makes pots and writes poetry.

I asked Pauline to send me five or six poems to choose from and all the poems she sent were great so I could have picked any of them, but I think this poem is really touching.  I think Pauline has captured the sense of desperation and guilt which is felt in these situations with the repeated aside of ‘you can’t keep him in this room’ and the lack of punctuation means that the poem passes easily between the opinion of the ‘I’ in the poem ‘you can’t keep him in this room’ to the bare and painful stated facts ‘there are women pissing themselves’.  With no punctuation the poem swivels between fact and opinion so that we are left unsure as to which is which.  Even with all of the awful details ‘neither of us remembers how to speak’ the poem has a black humour about it ‘the woman on the desk looks/as if she’d pimp her own mother’.

I think this poem is special as well because of how authentic it is – the dialogue when the father tells David to sit down – that is kind of heart breaking.  More heartbreaking in a way than the end – my nan used to say the same thing to an old lady in her care home.  And there was an old man in that care home who used to forget he couldn’t walk and he would make his way down the corridor holding on the rail as he went – up and down, up and down the corridor.

I hope you enjoy the poem.  ‘Aftercare’ was previously published in the new issue of The North which has lots of wonderful poets in all the time and which you should definitely subscribe to.


Aftercare – Pauline Yarwood

you can’t keep him in this room
there are women pissing themselves
sitting legs agape
stockings rolled to their ankles
the one on the mattress on the floor
has been moaning for two hours

the woman on the desk looks
as though she’d pimp her own mother
turns her back on everyone
smooths the skirt of her uniform

you can’t keep him in this room

I push his wheelchair round an
unkempt quadrangle of garden
neither of us remembers how to speak

the ridiculousness of me pushing him

tears meet saliva at the corner of his drooping lip

back inside someone has forgotten they can’t walk
pushes up to standing
starts to head off

sit down, David, my father shouts.
David sits.

you can’t stay in this room

I’ll do whatever they advise, he says

odd, because you could never tell him anything
he could never tell me anything either

next day, pimp-woman grips the curtain round the bed

just before you see him, she says,
busy morning, not had time,
just telling you,
his mouth is still open.