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Helen Sheppard

Updated: Sat, 14 Nov 2020 11:26 pm


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Helen writes poems about birth and those unheard. 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 Published; These are the Hands, 2020 FairAcres 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, 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 RTB, Torriano Meeting House Harvard Medical School, Boston Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, Parkside Lounge NYC


Bubbles in a War Zone... 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. ------------------------ Walking with Dad Dad says, when we are first born our stomachs are the size of a walnut. He spews up his gut full of tiny cannibals who eat and eat and…, shares his cheese pickle sandwiches. Dad teaches a child to slide a rule. He tells me Logarithm and amoeba are proof of existence, computers will devour our facts and remember pies are always square never round Dad lies belly down over cliffs at Land’s End. A child straddles his ankles. He reaches for rocks for his rockery. They body pivot, stretch. Rocks splurge into squall Dad sleeps behind door locks Hospital ghosts float too close He puckers to kiss and spit pills Pockets full of drop stitch holes, trail crumbs from chair to bed ------------------- 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. ------------

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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.

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