Artwork by Jane Burn
Edited by Beth McDonough
Seven Days in Maternity.
We chose Monday to evict him, tricked him out
with oxytocin, exposed him, curled and grey,
an ammonite dropped on the bed.
From his mouth’s blue auriole, soft mewling,
an arousal of life, the present fixing in black eyes.
On Tuesday, restless in his otherworldly crib of dials
and tentacles, its flawless atmosphere, just so, precise,
him, spatchcocked on the sheet, small giblets snatching
oxygen, my alien finger stroking brick-red, rubber limbs;
I’m wondering how anyone so fragile can endure.
Wednesday, I’m expressing, suckling the cold, bell mouth
of a breast pump – spritzing milk – I can’t help thinking
of cows at home, assembled twice daily in the parlour,
belching curds as the stockman douses udders,
clamps them to the muzzles of a milk machine.
Thursday, I’ve taken up nicotine, outside with the addicts,
huddled round ashtrays big as chimney stacks, like flies
round dung-heaps, shivering in thin nightdresses, comparing
labours, stitches, wounds, breast versus bottle, husbands/fathers –
tracing names in drifts of smoke.
Friday – MatthewMarkLukeandJohnblessthebed
thatIlayonandifIdiebeforeIwake – switch out
the lights, turn off TVs, evict the cat and check
for open windows, unlocked doors and oh – before
you come to bed, don’t forget to unplug the baby.
Today – I think it’s Sunday – my hair’s roadkill,
blue eyes are eggs in brine, lips moth wings burned
by candle flames, my tongue a fish, belly up.
He is skinned rabbit and his bones are gouache,
he’s a doodle scratched on glass, he’s rain in a jar.
By Lesley Quayle
Entonox/the view from the window
The second time I had a child I hired
a pool. I put it in the corner of
the room, blue plastic sheets inside. Ditch-tired,
I crawled inside and settled low. ‘My love,’
I heard, and saw the fair across the heath,
I saw the lights and swings and rides. The hush
was in my head, it rose and fell. My breath
lay underneath, then lights; the silence pushed,
lights red then blue (I asked for gas and air),
then dipped (it did not come) and flashed again –
the quiet pulled up my head, my arms, my hair,
then held me down below the dark. And then:
the dull blood shock of her against my arm,
her face. When I looked back the fair was gone.
By Natalie Shaw
The Tooth Fairy
He goes to her, impish mouth wide, grinning
over his latest achievement: a tooth
in his pocket. Now he could learn the truth
about magic, wishes; little mind spinning
with his latest scheme: ‘I wrote a letter
Mum, and you can’t see!’ His elfin dreams
would soothe a weeping banshee’s screams.
A talisman, this tiny Taliesin’s whisper –
scrap note and marker scrawl charged with power.
She took the stairs with footsteps of a sylph
to the boy, settled in sleep for an hour.
She read his words until her heart was filled
with light and dust, the desire to conjure
whims. In the moonlit room, the night stood still.
By Kate Garrett
I filled his mouth with my brother’s teeth,
not the husbands, nor my folks – different to any kin
Uncle Philip’s teeth for sure, down to the
hewn like Callanish Stones with a gap to drive a
huge, white and whistling. The sssssst sound of air,
dart of spit –
I filled his mouth with the teeth of the brother I loved.
please not the ratchet, snaggle-toothed
of him indoors – not my mother’s perfect alignment,
flinty in her face. I got those. I must have begged them
out of his head.
His bite will be less even, yes – but his smile peels out
from the nest
of his lips in laser-beams. He is smiling back at me,
By Jane Burn
My son pointed out this heart cloud
just before rain clouds threatened to do their thing again I managed
to capture it And there are days when I am proud of myself
for achieving the basics
Hey mum what’s up
is a sort of hi
and then we take it in turns
and the ceiling
and the sky
and this random star
gravity holding it together
By Laura McKee