Poem for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is really tough for any mummy who has experienced the loss of a child. One of the best ways to survive Mother’s Day is to prepare for it by anticipating and allowing for our emotions. It is so important to maintain an enduring connection with our little ones: talking to them, seeing and hearing the little messages they send us.

This week I spent some time with my grandsons, Jacob and George, and here is my poem – a Mother’s Day gift for my daughter, Sam Rumens, and for all other mummies who have suffered the loss of a child:

I am still your Mummy

I was your mummy

from that first positive pregnancy test.

Every hic, every kick,

every heart



Your mummy was born when the dream

of you was conceived.

I have lived and re-lived

every step, every tear



On Sunday I will take

my heart for a walk

to our special place.

I will speak

your name.


I am still your mummy,

so I can’t move on.

I carry you with me

in my heart.



Alone at the bow. Sea sprayed cheeks,
Sun squinting eyes. To sail
this groyne to places unknown.
Waves roar on slithering shingle. Gulls wail.
Alien at the helm.

Globe enticed travel to faraway land.
Periscope sight on horizon.
Sea urchin shells and deep green
tales. Serpents coil
around perils long forgotten.

We stake our claim with graffiti
and lovers trysts. Salt
caked crevices. Dimpled,
pocked, bronzed.
We drift.

(Poem inspired by visit to the ‘Brighton Donut’ – a sculpture by Hamish Black)

Fire and Rain

Yesterday, as part of my Communities Module, we visited the punk exhibition at Brighton Museum and I was asked to write a poem incorporating the words from a song that meant something to me in my youth. I chose Fire and Rain by James Taylor:


Legs dangle

from bedroom window.

Vinyl revolves

on portable turntable.

James Taylor: ‘sweet dreams and flying machines

In pieces on the ground.’


The police set me down by the pub.

‘Find someone else luv,

He’s no good.’

Took him away – no goodbye,

No kiss to replay.


Tore the chain from my neck,

‘Forget me’, he said.

‘But I always thought

that I’d see you baby,

One more time again now.’

Valentines letter to Jacob and George

Dear Jacob and George

I didn’t get to see you in your school nativity – George, such a serious Innkeeper, and Jacob fidgety in a scratchy shepherd’s costume. I chose Christmas presents for you – I popped them in the Salvation Army collection box.
I can’t believe you are five already. Izzie and Poppy sang Happy Birthday and blew out your candles. You sent me a double rainbow, soaring high above my neighbours rooftops.
Last June, when my buddleia came into bloom, I watched as you played tag around the bush, tumbling and frolicking in the sunshine. Every summer I gather pebbles and shells for your sandcastles, and each autumn I fill my pockets with conkers – burnished brown like grandad’s polished brogues
Jacob, I see you when Cousin Josh kicks a ball, and I glimpse you in Poppy’s cheeky grin. George, I hear you in Izzie’s giggle, and see you in Cousin Eloise’s funny frown. I feel you both as the sun warms my face, but when my other grandkids are chasing around the garden, two of the gang are missing.
Izzie tells me you are stars in the sky, but she wishes you’d come down and play. I wish that too.
Jacob, in one breathe we said hello and goodbye. I watched your little face – eyes tightly closed. A flutter of life as an angel tickled your nose – I wish my gentle breath could have filled your lungs with oxygen… I rocked you gently, and told you how much we all love you – Mummy, Daddy, your brother George – such a big loving family. You left us with an ache in our arms, and a gaping hole in our hearts.
George, as I cradled you, you reminded me of my dad – arms folded and slightly irritated as if someone had disturbed you – long fingers and your mummy’s rosebud lips. Poor little soldier, you’d been through such a battle… You are Jacob’s big little brother – now you must look after each other.
My darling grandsons, I wish you’d had more time with your mummy and daddy, because your mummy and daddy are truly amazing. I won’t ever forget you – I carry you with me always and forever. I’m so grateful I had the chance to hold you and tell you how much you mean to me.

All my love.brothers-1957095_1920

Granny xx.

Broken Dolly

image(This poem was inspired by a broken doll that I saw when I visited Auschwitz in 2007)

Come my Essie, I will tuck you

snug and cosy in your pram.

See my dolly dressed so finely.

Ima, watch me wheel her round.


Hurry Leeba, I must dress you,

Journey’s long, the night is cold.

Eat, for you will be soon be hungry.

Train so crowded, young and old.


‘Pack for new life,’ so they tell us,

Times are hard, our lives stripped bare,

Husband, father, man no longer,

Where is Aba?

In despair.


Hope is gone, my heart is broken.

What’s this place?

Arbeit Macht Frei.

Stay close by me little Leeba.

Ima, I don’t want to die.


Ima, see my poorly Essie

Has no eyes, her hair is torn.

Where is Aba? Will he mend her?

Rumours true,

She sees no more.


That Look


That Look 



Her stare defiant.

Eyes wild, exquisite

in their sadness.

Fear has passed.

Dare you look away.


She treasures what she held,

though love failed

to keep the child

safe. Stone

dwells in her heart.


Taken too soon

for memories.

Yet she smiles,

whilst lens captures

image of her child.






My dad doesn’t know who I am.

Smiles politely, greets

me with his telephone voice.

Thinks he’s staying in a hotel.

Says his room is not that grand.

My dad’s glasses don’t work.

He stumbles, stutters and stalls

through his eye test.

It’s not the optics that fail him,

but his ability, to recall the names

of the letters on the chart.

I’m no great wordsmith.

Have no knack for scrabble,

anagrams, crosswords.

Never seen the point of long words,

when short will do. But I value

my limited capacity

for crafting words.

One day, like Tootles,

I might lose my marbles.

My words may dry up.

Like dad and Terry Pratchett,

to end my days with dementia?

Grandma’s Button Box

Grandma’s Button Box3346879430_1fe54e2aae_m-1

It rattles as she lifts it from the mantle.

Broken biscuits, jigsaw pieces?

Lid is prised. Five year old

starfish hands delve deep

raising cupped catch.

Each has a story. Toggle

from Johnny’s brown duffle.

Blue rabbit buckled dungaree.

Red ruby off knobbly

wool interview suit.

Tilt kaleidoscope and tiny

pearls from soft kid gloves

tumble, while lover’s fingers

fumble with sequin clasp

on throat of dancing beau.

Foot soldiers on Grandpa’s cuffs.

Once solid, serviceable.

Now translucent, yellowed – like old teeth.

No longer a team. Redundant.

Threads loose. Dispensable.

Wartime make do and mend.

Each knew responsibility.

Black jet on crepe mourning

dress. Sentries

in waiting.

Friends Clump


Friends Clump


Stamp feet

Stride out


Mud in ruts

Hoof pocked


Clenched fists

Wind bites


Jaw aches

Hunker down

Cold gnaws


Sullen sky


Mustard gorse

Fallen needles

Bracken brown


forest vista creates panoramic patchwork of sepia



clefts cloud.

Magic paintbrush

colours heathland with creeping

 yellow wash. Soft floodlight reveals the stage.

 This is the place. Taking turns to circumambulate.

Peppering the roots of the Scots Pine with his ash.

Where they embrace, entwine. Nourish. Mulch.

This conifer will be the finest in the forest.

Sun fades. We shiver, pick pine cone

keep sake and make

our way


Highwayman Coat

Highwayman Coats-l225

Wide collar, deep cuffs conceal

a person of mystery.

Dark, secretive, in disguise.

Narrow waisted, bold shouldered.

Darth Vader, Jack Sparrow,

Highwayman of the apocalypse.

I remember my headmaster,

Sweeping along corridors, his academic

gown commanding fear and dread.

Master of the paso doble,

I swirl my cape like a bullfighter.

Black knight in a game of chess.

I wonder about its history.

Who owned the coat before me,

Before I claimed, cut, tamed it to fit

my sixteen year old frame.

The wearer is assertive, imposing, providing

opportunity to be someone I am not.

Was that me?

When school boys jostled, teased.

Retaliated calmly, crushing

their boater under my foot.

That coat had further lives to free.

I think of it and wish it still had me.