Is it Christmas Yet?

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“Is it Christmas yet?”

My young son asked of me.

“No, not yet, we’ve only done

The tree!”

******

“Is it Christmas yet?”

As he followed me from room to room

“No,” I said and pointed

To the full and frosted moon

******

“Now, go to bed and dream your dreams

Of innocence and wonder;

Tomorrow will come and before you know

Christmas will all be over.”

******

“Oh don’t say that!” he cried,

And smudged away a tear

“Don’t worry, darling.” I sighed,

“It’ll be back again next year!”

December 2007

I was digging around in my poetry archives for something Christmassy to share and found this! Written in 2007 when my son was 12 and had grown out of the wonder and magic of Christmas. I missed his excitement and all the preparation that lead up to Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

The Cost of Living

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Marking European Day of Disabled People – 3rd December, 2019

The cost of living is always rising

As our natural world is slowly dying

But the Human Race still cries out for more

So, Whiggish Tories introduce their own Poor Law*


To eradicate those of us they label, ‘Useless Eaters’

And silence all the ‘benefit scroungers’

The lessons we should’ve learnt from our shared history

Have taught us nothing about living with disability


Doctors pat themselves firmly on the back

As they patch another ‘broken’ body up

But with, ‘life changing injuries’, how do we survive

In a society that still wishes we were, not alive?


The Ancient Greeks, I’m told, chose to sacrifice us

By throwing damaged people off rugged cliffs

I thought we were better, that we’d have more choice,

Yet no one is listening to our collective voice


Herded like cattle through spurious assessments

Poked and prodded to save banker’s investments

I wonder if future generations will be more forgiving

When they learn we put individual wealth before living?


We pride ourselves that people are living longer

And humanity is growing faster, smarter, stronger

But with new technology and ground-breaking science

Our blood is still staining humanity’s conscience.



*The brutal 1834 Amendment Act introduced by a Whig government

The Cost of Living is an echo of an earlier poem, Scars, by Simon Brisenden. It is a cry for society to stop repeating the mistakes of the past. Disabled people are still being ignored, victimized and murdered. I recently heard the harrowing story of Mark Stuart, a young man with autism, who experienced a horrendous catalogue of failures that left him in excruciating pain and resulted in a slow death. Mark joins a long-suffering chain of victims that emerges from the murky mists of human history; a history that is so damaging to our belief that we are now civilized human beings, that it has been conveniently lost in the dusty depths of academia.


You can find a copy of Scars by Simon Brisenden in his 1997 poetry collection, Poems for Perfect People:   https://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/library/brisenden-Poems.pdf

The House of Chronic Pain

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Pain has set up home
Made a rusty key to unlock my bones.
 
Pain bathes, in my blood
Plugged up my arteries to avoid a flood.
 
Pain cooks on my ribs
The heat makes it hard to breath.
 
Pain sleeps in my joints
On a mattress made of needle points.
 
Pain parks the car on my back
Just to keep me nice and flat.
 
Pain rewired half my brain
Making me forget my name
 
Pain dances in my heart
As he skillfully pulls the walls apart.
 

Writing on Walls

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I got the idea for this poem after sitting in traffic jams going to doctor’s and dental appointments and then waiting again at the chemist for prescriptions to be made up.

Why don’t we write more poetry on the walls?

In doctor’s surgeries, dentists and the backsides of buses

Or the growing empty spaces in our shopping malls?


Why wait to engrave heartfelt kindness on loved one’s tombs

Where only cold stone and ancient trees will remember them?

When our eternal love could be enshrined in waiting rooms.


Words could carpet floors, or be etched on chairs

To make the waiting time feel well, less waited

Or travel foot by foot with us, up sterile stairs.


Blake’s burning tiger; Lawrence’s giant hummingbirds

Should not be tucked away in the neat lines of books

And Duffy’s Wives or Rudyard’s ‘If’ would make the perfect wedding gift.


Why don’t we write more poetry on the walls?

To replace all those vacuous ads that grab at all our money

And lead us further and further away from our precious humanity.

Poetry Challenges

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I thought I’d share two challenges that I have written very quickly this week. I always distrust things that I have written quickly and barely edited but I had so much fun!

The first challenge was to use the following words in a poem: Cornucopia, Phantasmagoria, Embarrassment, Kite and Brick

Where I Live

The middle classes live in proper glass houses

Set on immaculate lawns, all bought and paid for;

A semi-detached cornucopia of red bricked crescents

Where embarrassment is worshiped every Sunday, in the

Phantasmagoria church of England high up on Kett’s Hill

And red kites weave and dance against the low, evening sun

Before eventually coming home, to roost.

********************

The second challenge: The Ecology of Accessible Loos – A Community Exercise in rhyming couplets.

Ode to Toilet

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t prefer to use

The spaciousness found in disabled loos

I’ve used some pretty awful ones in my time

But the most recent, had no reason and no rhyme

It was in a pub, up some stairs

The stuff of wheelchair users’ nightmares

Luckily I could walk up and got to see

Where many others couldn’t pee

I can only think it was a perfect space

For giggling girls to touch up their face

Or impatient couples on one-night stands

At least they had somewhere to wash their hands!

Still, I count myself quite lucky

At least I didn’t need a Radar key!

Both challenges set by Richard Downes and can be found on his blog at the DAO Website: https://disabilityarts.online

September Rain

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It was fifty years ago this September, that my mum and dad took me to the Palace School, a boarding school for ‘handicapped’ children in Ely, Cambridgeshire. I had no idea where we were going or why. All I remember was that my mother sat with me in the back of the car rubbing my small, cold hands. I was too little then, even to look out at the flat lands of the fens; all I could see was the slate grey sky and the ribbons of rain snaking down the car windows. The date must have been Monday 8th September, 1969. I was 4 years old.

All that I am now, can be distilled into that single moment when my mum, sobbing, gently put me down, onto the cold hard concrete floor and left.

I would spend the next 12 years travelling to and fro to the same school on the train and got used to the sick feeling of dread that came with every journey back after the long summer holidays.

The Bishop's Palace stands tall and red bricked, opposite Ely Cathedral which you can just see. I can still map the interior space, as it was when I attended there as a child.
The building, that I knew as the Palace School, is still there, having seen many reincarnations. Every window, tells a story!

We often shared the train with kids going back to King’s, a private school in Ely and I remember thinking then, how we were worlds apart. Ironically, the Palace was taken over by King’s some years ago and is now an ‘independent school’

Only now, as a parent myself, can I appreciate how hard it must have been for my mum and my family to let me go at the beginning of each new term.

This poem is dedicated to all the disabled children and their parents, who, like me, had to travel far away from home to be institutionalized and receive a second class education.

Let history remember us!

September Rain

 School socked legs pound dew covered pavements 
As summer swings stand silent, in the park
And the arc between child and adult narrows
With each marching year that passes,

Leaves burn on trees then fly away on the snappy breeze
To be chased by cars on their dreary-eyed morning
Commute to work; longing for the next opportunity to
Shirk the dreariness of nine to five.

Trains fill with blazers shouting grammar
And privilege in 'silent only' carriages,
Where hat-less people smoke,
Much less than they did, when I was young.
                                                     
                                              When I was a kid

The summer holidays felt luxuriously long.
Until September pulled my Paddington suitcase
From under the bed and folded name tagged
Pants and vests with sad resigned gentleness.

Then I would feel my heart churn and twist
Deep within my childish chest and I cried for time
To rewind and be lived again.
Fifty years on, those feelings, they still come
Brought on by the harsh September rain.
This photograph must have been taken early 70s, at school. It is the only one I have. I don”t remember the girl on the left but I think the girl in the middle was called Maria and I am on the right. I must have been about 6 years old. I think the suited men behind us were presenting the school with a donation of some kind.

Ethical?

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I’ve been on an ethical shopping quest recently. Yet trying to do the right thing, raises so many questions…”

How do you know,
If you’re doing the right thing?                                                                
You read the blurb:
No bleach, no animal testing.
 
Free from harmful toxins.
Or synthetic chemicals, used to
Clean up those nasty spills
And smells us humans make!
                                      
Is it vegan friendly?
Innocent of animal cruelty?
And what about the packaging?
The carbon footprint?
 
Is it made in Third World lands?
Allegedly, by Fairtrade hands?
A women’s collective?
Where ‘Fairness’    still                                                                
Equals less!
 
How do I research all this?
Find the tender truth, strangled
By fake news? The Capitalist lies!
And can everybody really live
 
Without intentionally killing
Any other being or
Harming the planet?
This is my earnest ethical quest
And I really hope the answer will be,

yes.

Difficulty Speaking

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Oh, how I wish I could backchat!

Lash out with lavish tongue

And feel the quicksilver ooze from my mouth

Like the sweetest spooned treacle.

Or honey my words with luscious deliciousness.

Like the woman in the Marks and Spencer ads.

But my brain refuses to discuss this, with my mouth

Which, in company, feels like an oaf among kings;

A spasmodic Quasimodo, an unloveable thing.

If only my words had wings and my perfect speech

Could gracefully fly through the eye of a needle,

Instead of lying, broken and feeble

Like spent bees no longer able to sting.

For George

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Memories are all I have now

But they are nowhere near enough!

Memories of lazy day visits, to your home

And the warmth of camomile cups

That gently touched as they rested

Upon the honeyed oak

Or sitting in the garden, your own private Eden

Complete with industrious bees and

Peaceful dovecote.


And.

And if I could,

I would robe these moments,

In pure amber

And weave them into the

Fabric of Time.

So that the universe would always

Remember

That you were a

Dear friend of mine.


Dear George, you were a jewel in my life. You gave so much of yourself to all the things you believed in and your loving kindness will live on in my heart. George Saunders: Chair of Norwich Access Group and lover of the natural world.

Sleeves

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For Mum:


My husband’s fleece wraps around me,
Like an enormous hug.
It smells of him, it smells of love
But the sleeves are not made
Like a woman’s would be, there’s just no give!
My wrists, so often in the sink, are bound
With cold wet fabric that chafes my skin.
I turn and roll them but the cloth clings tight
I pull them up, with all my might       but
They refuse to stay put and
Slide back down, into the greasy dirt.
 
His sleeves, only know days filled with office banter
Across computer monitors and desk jet printers.
Days that mercifully end at five o’clock, when he
Comes home and puts his feet up.
My wardrobe was once full, of clothes like this, with
Tight buttoned cuffs that caressed my skin
But even then, on holidays and weekends,
I’d roll the sleeves up on my mother’s cardigans
To scrub the floors and bleach the bins as,
I waited for one washing cycle to end so
Another could begin.
 
Mum was married on promises, pregnant
With dreams that were hard to resist
For a girl, the shy side of nineteen
I can still see her in the kitchen where,
She always lived; cooking, cleaning, and ironing
Dad’s stolid blue, Air Force shirts
How I remember the violence of the wet cloth
As it hissed and steamed, the collars and cuffs,
Stiff with starch and abandoned dreams.
 
Sometimes, on still evenings, when the dying sun splashes
Through the bedroom curtains, I can almost see her heart
Still beating on the sleeves she left,
And smell the scented perfume, she loved so much.
It’s then, in these precious moments,
I feel her gentle touch upon my shoulder;
As she whispers, “take care, my love.”
 
Right now, I wish that she was alive to see,
Her youngest daughter, writing poetry,
At her own desk, amid the chaos and the mess
Wearing her husband’s non-iron fleece.

Mary (Macdonald) Young: 18th December 1940 – 3rd November, 1999