Pod Issue 2

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Artwork by Jane Burn

Edited by Beth McDonough

Anaesthetics

My son was two when he first took not E

but ketamine. In the next bed a boy,

eighteen perhaps, called out, ‘I need – I need

water.’ I heard him through the screen. The toy

I held hung limp. My son had cut his face,

the slash below his mouth filled up with blood.

I’d held it shut, and felt the iron taste

run through my teeth. I pressed and held. How could

I keep us safe? The boy called out, ‘Stop, no.

Give me water.’ He almost sang the words

and nurses came and held him down – I hoped

for different things. My son came to and saw

not me but aeroplanes. They took him high

and flew him from my arms out to the sky.

By Natalie Shaw

Holding On

Now, settled in your iron bed,

you sleep like lead.

The pulse on your cheek, an afterthought of the

electrical storm that sent you

flapping and jigging at midnight.

Stabilise, roll your eyes.

My life is patterned after yours:

eating, sleeping, waiting.

Nurses come and go—stiff, white ghosts in the night.

The chap next door tried Granny’s pills.

Another, broken by a car,

lies-amid-scaffolding-limbs-pinned-in-place.

A sweet voiced girl plays guitar

She’ll be coming round the mountain . . .

Playground songs in antiseptic suspension.

A doctor doing her rounds,

unexpectedly pretty, holds my glance

as I note the round, expectant, belly

and the fear in her eyes of what she cannot control.

Our story ends without tragedy.

But something is lost as the road spreads out before us.

By Jane Baston

First published in the anthology Sunrise at Macchu Picchu (Women’s Words 2011)

Only Child

I listen to you singing to yourself. Watch you in the garden, finding

a teammate in the fence as it returns the ball to you – standing in for

the brother or sister I never gave you. I couldn’t give you.

Something broke after you – I tell you how I could never have made

something so magical twice, that you grew so tall and strong

because you are all my babies born at once.

By Jane Burn

Growing like a

He spins in wide circles,

cuts through tendrils

knotted in his head.

Before this, I’d said:

You’re growing like a weed!

He said to stop saying he’s growing

like a weed, he said he’s not like a weed

at all. He said weeds are bad, unwanted.

And that was when my son

started spinning.

I say: No sweetheart, no,

it’s because weeds grow fast.

And not all weeds are bad: nettle

tea, dandelion wine, berries

from wild brambles in early autumn.

He stops, and looks at me.

I say: you couldn’t be more wanted

You’re sweet like clover blossoms,

and lucky like clover with four leaves, too.

Then he smiles

(smiles: bright, common,

but suddenly beautiful,

the first dandelion

heads in May)

I love you, Mum.

My son hugs me

(hugs: rare, special,

four leaf clovers)

and I kiss his hair,

calming, like dock leaves

on nettle stings.

By Kate Garrett

*A slightly older version of this poem was previously published on Ink, Sweat & Tears in September 2013

Clearance (For Anna)

It was a week before I could bring myself

to go into her room. Armed with boxes and black bags,

standing where I used to watch her sleeping.

………………….She’s still here –

the evidence is everywhere,

discarded magazines and cups, a shoe,

an unloved teddy bear, dishevelled,

empty bed – the pillows gift her smell.

Once we lived, pulse to pulse, my womb’s

sweet weight, slow rising, like bread.

I borrowed her for a while,

…………………..my daughter,

aware at last of inescapable repeats

in time.  Watched with my mother’s eyes

the same road rising, old footsteps worn afresh

through dust, exiled by knowledge.

When she came, I knew I would bargain

with anybody’s gods,  forsake my soul

to keep her safe –  struggling between destiny

……………………and dread,

I didn’t notice the growing of her. Her leaving,

a rushed affair, she was never going to be a stay-at-home,

a last quick kiss, my heart

off guard, tears at bay – a room to clear.

By Lesley Quayle

(First published in my pamphlet Songs for Lesser Gods (erbacce, 2009)

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