profile image

Helen Sheppard

Updated: Sat, 26 Jun 2021 03:48 am


Contact via WOL logo


Helen writes poems about birth, midwifery, and those whose voices are often unheard. Debut poetry collection 'Fontanelle' due out 23rd September 2021 with "Burning Eye Books" Health Beat Poets Podcast Published; Hecate Press Birth Anthology 2021 Ink Sweat & Tears 2021 These are the Hands, 2020 FairAcres Press Under the Radar, Nine Arches Press Literati Magazine COVID-19 Poems in the Lockdown, 2020 Lyrically Justified Volume 3, 2019 Tools of the Trade - Poems for New Doctors, 2019 Our Beating Heart NHS70, 2018 Voices Along the Road, 2018 Wild Women Press, 2018 Ink Sweat & Tears, 2021, 2018 Hippocrates Poetry & Medicine anthology 2017, I am Not a Silent Poet, Blue of Noon Commended in Hippocrates Poetry and Medicine Prize 2017 for poem 'Opening'. Performances Our Beating Heart NHS70 Launch. Milk Poetry, Warm Milk, Strong Bones, Tonic, Spotlight Raise The Bar Torriano Meeting House Harvard Medical School, Boston Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, Parkside Lounge NYC Activities and events Satellite of Love, @SOL_Poetry co-runs open mics and community poems. Bristol Literature Festival, Children's event 'Bring your own Language', 2016 Town Choir, Bristol writer. Theatre Replacement. 2018 Sufi Poetry Bristol Festival of Literature 2018


Bubbles It takes time to feel comfortable in a war zone. At 8pm your family clap, holler hope, give thanks. A five-minute break, slurp of coffee, half a doughnut. My hands crack from their thousand-a-day scrubs. I cool you, drain you, cleanse you, oxygenate lungs with their lesions from beautiful microscopic aliens. A tornado of experts keep you here flatten this curve. I'm raw with sores behind my ears from mask elastic cuts. Stitch groups make headbands with big buttons, and builders send PPE, their protection in demolition. Your ventilation soundtrack: breath shunts and beeps. I’m ‘practiced’ not ‘hardy’, cry briefly as beds fall empty, staff share an inappropriate joke and my smile is back. In the next bed, a sister (mild asthma), a dad (angina), a mum (diabetic), a youngster (misses playing football). I find a tube in my coat pocket, given instead of confetti at a wedding. I blow bubbles at the end of tough shifts. We meet in this pandemic together, intimate strangers. Tonight we stay back, share donated prosecco, order takeaways paid for in kind. Tomorrow I will sleep. ------------------------------ Opening A gestation reaches its timely conclusion Her muscled hammock softens, slackens I am with her wet slit, hands quiet, ready A head down pressure, spine to belly Her womb now taut as a new balloon I hear heart beat code, pains come, go A tuft of hair appears, recedes to tease Her skin peels over a spongy first frown I map read headland suture, fontanelle A flicker of eyelids, phantom of a new Her hands clutch knees, chin tucks in I prop her heel on my hip, bear down A nose tips. Bloodline, too early to know Her guttural sounds, deep, old as Eve I breath in rhythm between her pushes A fold of ear unfurls as lips pucker apart Her fingers stretch over, stroke baby hair I loosen cord. A rough touch can mutilate A breath held moment. Bruise blue runs to red Her opening forgotten, already starts to close. ------------------------ Blue One wintry Saturday afternoon, I tip out my nan's sewing box. She isn't dead, just overseeing what's long inside. Each cantilever compartment a rainbow of embroidery threads, poppers in pairings, knicker elastic, mushroom darner, skirt and bra extenders for when women quietly bloat. I make a brew, we read news stories on cut out hand-made patterns. A baby's bonnet never stitched. Youth dies as father performs heart operation at home. I cut two slices of fruitcake, wait. Poor boy, bronchitis, his father Doctor Smith, lovely man, intelligent talker, cut open son’s chest with a razor blade. The mother left soon after. Nan picks out blue ribbon, he always was a dear boy, winds around a bobbin, secures with a pin ------------------- Child and I A sparrow boy arrives at my door He drops empty into this flat pack city Sleeps tonight where no bullets fly Dreams It’s dark Water ice Black fins of shark Our languages are mismatched At breakfast I cook scrambled eggs He pinches clouds of sourdough As petals they float in his bowl of warm milk ------------------- Hair Growing up in small towns hairdressers offer crew cuts, curlers, wigs in severe bobs. In cities my fuzz is flat ironed, acid straight, topiary trimmed. In cosy bars, strangers clink pints on our table. Sweep sweaty palms across tips of my frizzy top-knot. If every hair molester paid for fondles, I'd be on easy street. Their fingers skim my follicle ends on buses, at gigs, in queues for the loo in blatant barnet abuse. My mum once cut gum nests out my afro after Saturday flicks I still withdraw pencil javelins thrown into our chequerboard family of chess pieces. ------------

All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.

Do you want to be featured here? Submit your profile.


Profile image

pauline sewards

Sat 9th Apr 2016 20:14

Amazing imagery in these poems. I also like that they seem written from a deep well of experience of care work. The work is anchored in specific, realistic details but goes far beyond this.

View all comments

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message