I’m veering a little off the usual webzine format today: it’s Bonnie’s first birthday! And it happened to land on a Wednesday, so as her mum and a writer, I’m sharing my own poetry here – these two pieces relate to her birth (in this case my own medical predicament) and her first week of life in Leeds hospital.
Here is a then and now photo of Bonnie, too – because she’s come a long way, and of course we continue to pray she’ll go even further.
Anyway – thank you all for being part of our little captain babykraken’s first year, for supporting the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, and also for helping each other’s hearts with your wonderful poems. (And keep them coming – plus art, fiction, and creative nonfiction, too. Remember we move to a bi-monthly web journal format on 9th February – though we do have two more webzine posts to share with you before the switch.)
A routine operation, they said
When you’re flat on your back, looking up is looking
straight ahead—baby in another room, in your husband’s
arms, for the moment, safe. In the light fixture above,
reflective silver sun, you secretly watch the surgeon clamp
one fallopian tube as pain returns, aches from the skin down.
You think about not feeling the outside air hit your inside
world, the ovarian road your children first travelled held
in a doctor’s hands. You think about how sometimes, over
the centuries, people survived surgeries without anaesthetic.
You thank your obsession with history for this meditation.
You find an unsettling calm in the sight of your split skin, red-
edged; in the thought of, at least, not feeling the first cut. She tells
you it will be over soon, halfway through the sterilisation.
Sterilisation, all the right decision, she mutters. This baby
alone could have killed you. Your womb was stretched
transparent; in the moment before delivery, before scalpel
touched flesh, she could see an elbow twitch, toes wriggle
through amniotic fluid, the baby nearly two feet long
and coiled atop your bladder. I thought I nicked your bladder,
casually, as if saying it might rain, luckily a false alarm.
You see blue dye, just pushed through your body, splashed
on your hospital gown, confirming all is as it should be.
But of course things have changed. The pain is returning
to your centre. She ends your child-growing years for good,
for life and death reasons, and you feel the pinch and pressure
as she cuts off this handful of possibilities.
Then you feel the sutures run back and forth, their sting and glide—
the anaesthetist offers to put you under, but you refuse.
You’d rather be awake for the sealing of your fate.
(first published in Gyroscope Review)
from The fifth and final
we bring her home // a little bird bundled
against cold so bright after a week of rain
she’d risen from the warm sanguine sea
to a stormcloud world // to a mother’s love
to a fear in me she met with her dark blue
eyes and a cry fit to silence it // though her skin
was pale and chilled and a tssss snaked between
her heartbeats like a jazz hi-hat // a warning
beside her hospital bed // the faith I’d danced
around for decades pushed through
like February snowdrops // the night nurses
turned her monitors to the wall and I petitioned
a saint // a goddess of milk and fire // I pray to a god
a ghost whose love [they say] saved us all
at last we bring her home // a little bird bundled
carrying the flame of early spring in the right-hand
chambers of her heart // we open the honeyflow
of mead // drink a belated toast to new beginnings
(part four of ‘The fifth and final’ – a four-part poem to be released in full as a Stickleback from the Hedgehog Poetry Press, January/February 2019)
Kate Garrett is the founding editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, and Bonnie’s Crew, and her own writing is widely published. She is the author of several pamphlets – most recently Land and Sea and Turning (CWP Collective Press, 2018) – with a mini chapbook, To feed my woodland bones [a changeling’s tale] (Animal Heart Press), and her first full-length collection The saint of milk and flames (Rhythm & Bones Press) forthcoming in 2019. Born in rural southern Ohio, Kate moved to the UK in 1999, where she still lives in Sheffield with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat.
Our JustGiving page is open for donations to the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund – no amount is too small if you feel moved to support.