MAG Poetry Competition 2011 – Winning Poem
Ruby and Me at Baby Clinic
Old Harlow, UK
underneath the sink,
tunnel across the road,
fetch up in the Health Centre.
Ruby drags her son’s pram
through the scream of a hole
in the laminate, while I shake
dirt from the baby carrier.
The real mothers arrive by car:
wear a uniform of unbleached cotton;
stand to attention, reciting the signs
of colic and croup. We eavesdrop
on their small talk: reading, writing, violin.
This is a contest. They are the favourites.
and the odds are unworkable.
Ruby’s baby is a day long howl;
mine has a rash and has never
known sleep. Our clothes –
a stained camouflage
of black – smell like soured milk.
We cannot recite the signs.
We have no talk of any kind.
We go back to the tunnel.
In the darkness, on my knees,
I tell Ruby something
I heard on the radio.
I say: Ruby, sometimes a mother
can come from nowhere,
can raise a surgeon,
or an astronaut,
or give birth,
to a superstar. Mary
was only a teenager.
But the radio voice did not sound convincing.
And we seem to have lost our way.
And Ruby says (above the howling)
that we all know what happened to Jesus.