Tag Archives: Poetry Society

Lying in bed with my life – poem

Credit: Myriams Photos via PIxabay

Can’t you sleep either? After a dark year,
many old friends gone, I thought I heard you sing
outside the window
inches from my ear. Who are you singing for
this time of night? Did I dream you?

This is the first stanza of Ruth Padel’s poem Night Singing in a Time of Plague. You can read the full poem on the Poetry Society’s site here. It is a response to John Keats’ poem Ode to a Nightingale. The poem was commissioned as part of the Keats200 bicentenary – a celebration of Keats’ life, works and legacy.

We are close to the first anniversary of the pandemic. The borders of the Netherlands remain closed to visitors from the UK. I have been sleeping less well for weeks now. Here is Kathleen Kummer’s poem, also about the difficulty of finding sleep.

Lying in bed with my life

I am lying in bed with my life.
It is one of those sleepless night when I chafe
at its bulk alongside me. It will fill the hours
with my clan of northerners and sundry others.
I shall speak for them all, the living and the dead.

I know the words, which I’m good at repressing
when they were my own and unkind. I shout Cut
if the scene is unbearable, switch on the lamp
to get rid of it, a shame, as I might still have seen
my mother’s harebell-blue eyes and the family
wearing each other’s hats at a picnic.

The curtain at last turns grey and grainy,
and my life rolls up fast with a click inside me.
I’m reminded of that when my daughter says
I don’t suppose you’ve got a decent tape-measure?

Portrait

 

Exterior-2
In the pre-pandemic life, I would next Tuesday evening have travelled by train to Stalybridge. Now I am in the Netherlands and will probably eat orange-coloured cakes (left over from King Willem Alexander’s birthday celebrations on Monday).

 
The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to “promote a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”. It is now a thriving UK arts organisation with over 4,000 members worldwide. Volunteer members run local branches, called Stanzas. These tend to meet monthly to write and critique members’ poems.

 
The East Manchester & Tameside Stanza meets in the buffet bar on Platform 4 of Stalybridge railway station. The building is one of the very few remaining Victorian station buffet bars. It has the original fittings and fire, and it includes the original 1st class ladies’ waiting room with an ornate ceiling. This award-winning pub is like a museum: lots of photos, railway and other memorabilia.

 

3.-Interior-portrait-Stalybridge-Station-Buffet-by-Michael-Slaughter-LRPS

 
During feedback sessions, the poem is read twice – by the poet and someone else. The reading may well be interrupted by an announcement We’re sorry that the 19.21 to Manchester Piccadilly has been cancelled…

 
Portrait was published in my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous. It benefited from feedback from the EM&T Stanza regulars. I hope they are all keeping safe and well.

 

 

Portrait

When I look down
in the water of our harbour,
quiet, resting between barges,
I hope to find a portrait.

White foam is gloves I dropped long ago,
or my grandmother’s starched lace cap,
metal curled at her temples.

*

When I look down in the black water
I hope to see the fish that has
swallowed my wedding ring,
the ring I lost or threw away.

*

When I hold water in my hands
I have it: a portrait of my forgotten
eyebrows, my fingers a gold frame.