Tag Archives: children

Impact scars (for Pluto)

Recently a challenge was issued to poets on Twitter by Erika Nesvold. “Poets! There are no impact scars on Pluto’s heart because it’s continuously healing itself with ice. Please get on this”.

Here’s my response.

the first crystal forms
nidus in an infant heart
his worn-eyed mother
passes him to a stranger
leaves him for a thousand lifetimes
by the time she returns from her first haircut in a year
the crystal is lodged next to his aorta
her sunlight embrace
fails to melt it

at school, those frozen motes grow
with each
and every, taunt
each icicle barb embedded
in cardiac muscle
several of them coalesce
the moment his father says
boys don’t cry

his parents marvel
at his barren eyes
when his dog runs off
as if an orphan rock
at the edge of a solar system
they discern no impact scar
the boy has become adept
at mending his heart with ice

when his first girlfriend says
she can no longer tolerate
his lack of emotional availability
likens him to a cold grey stone
he watches, mute
her fire unknown to him
the frost gains momentum
glacially spreads to encase his right atrium

by the time he is made redundant
both atria are encased
in salty pack ice
clot incubates
in that cardiac refrigerator

after the stroke
he orbits his family
in an ever increasing spiral
would spin off into another galaxy
were he not dependent on his wife
who still flinches
if he tries to raise his hand
her death causes his right ventricle to freeze
swollen ankles the first sign of a failing heart

he isn’t well-liked
at the nursing home
mostly silent, he sits in his room
at the end of the corridor
no visitors make that trek
his children revolve around warmer bodies
a vanilla sponge from the kitchen
marks each successive year
until all he can swallow is ice-cream

when she comes on for the night shift
his half-moon face is turned to the window
sallow, skin tinged with uraemic frost
his ragged breath punctuates their silence
returned to infancy by dementia creep
both ventricles encased
she crushes his tablets, mixing them with strawberry jam
here, Pluto, this will help you breathe
Noor takes his cool thin hand to her cheek
whispers in his ear
one convulsive throe
melts the ice cage
she closes his eyes
notes they are wet

My heart may have been damaged by fire. I won’t heal it with ice.

in the space left
by children gone
I ponder infant apricots

Hugging the void

In the space between my arms
no lover lies

In the space between my arms
no mother confides

In the space between my arms
no child smiles

In the space between my arms
the universe resides

I hug the void
but it shall not embrace me

The beginnings of a short story?

The last Express Yourself writing workshop was held yesterday. I wrote a poem about the memories of my five year old son. It may contain the kernel of an idea – or it may be a sow’s ear Why do we malign the sow? I must investigate the origins of that expression. In any case the poem as it currently stands is not fit to share. Our second exercise was to describe a journey, which I uncharacteristically undertook in prose. Arnold Zable felt that it might be the beginning of a short story and suggested that I use the ‘daring’ approach of moving to the second person when discussing my ex-partner’s role.  Weave the story of my escape from the mountain with that of the relationship – and, indeed, a second escape. Here is what I wrote yesterday – clearly it’s a draft. What do you think?

Leaving the mountain
The air escaping the back of the car is even hotter than that around us. And that air is the hottest I have ever felt. Sweat evaporates before it has even thought to exit the glands on my skin. I cannot smell the smoke but above me the sky is tangerine or perhaps blood orange. Why do we so often seek edible metaphors? For, unlike the fruit, this sky contains no moisture – only refracted light and ominous promise.

We load the car with tubs of photos, dutifully packed before the first day of tremendous heat and sinister wind. I cannot lift them. I am spent from a morning preparing for such an eventuality. The pump stands primed, ready. Hoses are uncoiled. Buckets, mops, torches, radios and countless bottles of water are positioned around the house. Clothes are ready. The plan is on the fridge. Preparations made, we calmly pack the car.

I am breathless. Belly swollen, the baby due in a mere three months. He is quiet now. My son is at my feet. He has finally stopped screaming, his face slick with shiny red goo. The remains of the placatory red icy pole offered him. He has been woken from his nap. He is tired and frightened. I have no time to comfort him.

Now I plead with you to leave.

I have never been happy that you wish to remain. Your misguided masculinity. Your sense of self bound up with the notion of being a hero. And yet, you are so unprepared, your psyche unlikely to withstand the coming inferno.

So I must leave you. Photos, laptop, a few toys and clothes jumbled in the rear of the car. I throw the woolen blanket out of the boot. A stupid, careless gesture since its purpose is to protect us from radiant heat if trapped by fire. When the blanket is found five days later, ember burns pocking its blue check, we realise it has saved your life.  There are times that I will wish I had taken it with me.

The car noses its way out of the driveway. It could drive this road itself.  I say no goodbye, do not look back and head into the uncertain.


I will build a town, with houses and people - a mummy and a daddy and a boy and a brother and train tracks and a train and the road with cars and a cow and trees. And the cow was on fire and the train went on fire and the man went on fire. I put the fire out and then checked that everyone was OK. The cow was OK. The train was OK and back on the track. The man was OK, he has been in hospital for a long time now. He can come back home with the mummy and the boy and the brother. Everyone is OK now.















Oh the stories you tell
My little boy
Of death, destruction and
And yet
Always, but always
The boy and the brother and the mummy

            And the daddy

Are OK

And we are, in a fashion
But not in the way

You would like us to be

My little boy

And the house and the cow
Are OK

But they are not

My little boy

And you know this, my love
But the stories you tell
Those elaborate fables
Are your wish fulfillment
Your storytelling
A way to cope
My little boy

And so it is mine


You sit at the table
Suck on a red icy pole
Watch as we flee


You sit in the car
View the blackened world
Questions bubble from your mouth


You stand beside the dam
Scattering ashes and flowers
You sadly recall


You fight me in a store
Grief stricken
You collapse in my arms


You lie in bed
Tell me of your old room
And finally sleep


You draw a picture
It is to remember
You comfort me

Your soft head

Your soft head nestles against me
Contented, you sup from my breast
Born from chaos
You survey the world


Your soft head nestles against me
I cradle you in my arms
Born from chaos
You give succour


Your soft head nestles against me
I cannot let you go
Born from chaos
You provide security


Your soft head nestles against me
I gaze at your face
Born from chaos
I’m sorry
You carry my hopes