MAG Poetry Competition 2011 – Winning Poem

Ruby and Me at Baby Clinic

by Francesca McMahon

We dig an escape route
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. 

Added: 22.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem

04.05.2011

Mothers everywhere will identify with this poem- very accessible to all - loved it!

07.05.2011

Truthful; I like this as prose poetry; think it could be condensed a bit and be even more effective; suggest cut 'at Baby Clinic' from title

17.05.2011

really nice poem and good to see a father who cares so much xxx

17.05.2011

Not sure about the jesus ending but liked it overall. Takes a small moment and makes it relatable even to people who don't have babies.

18.05.2011

A spectacularly well realised poem. The author deserves high commendation. I hope this comes from a prolific poet so I can read more!

20.05.2011

Really love this. Rings oh so true! Love the voice and the humour which work so well together to entertain yet convey a serious side too.

22.05.2011

Haunting.

08.06.2011

So sad! This poem really touched me. The divide between 'us' and 'them' so cleverly portrayed

08.06.2011

I thought his was a strong and an important poem about inequality and yet there was a faint hope towards the end but then uncertainty again.

08.06.2011

Great poem, fantastic ending. Really good images and ideas, loved the contrast between the two and the other mothers. Great sounds too.

08.06.2011

Quirky. Powerful. Dignified.

08.06.2011

Reading this is like watching a story of words.

09.06.2011

thesence of fun is great!

09.06.2011

Vivid and strong and curious - raised more questions than answers. Left me wanting more.

09.06.2011

I wasn't sure where this poem was going at first, but what emerges is a convincing challenge to society's ideal of what mothers should be.

09.06.2011

Lovely poem. The 'we have no talk' does not ring true! Liked the bouncing off Ruby.

10.06.2011

Great poem; witty and very real.

10.06.2011

Jesus died, fo sho, but then he came back to life, kicked Sin up the butt, and saved at least 6 billion people. Keep positive!

10.06.2011

Jesus died, but came back to life, giving hope to the hopeless!

11.06.2011

great imagery-really visual

11.06.2011

I loved the black humour of this and the contrast between the reality of the narrator's life with that of the other mothers

12.06.2011

Brilliant!

13.06.2011

great poem - love the tunnel idea; 'seem to have lost our way'; 'cannot recite the signs'; 'the odds are unworkable' - perfect ending, too.

14.06.2011

Absolutely loved this, it's a very close second for me. Loved the theme and relate to it. Tunnelling metaphor was striking and powerful.

14.06.2011

I love this poem. Moving and funny with a brilliant punchline.

17.06.2011

Isolation in every line.

18.06.2011

I so much want 'Ruby and me' to raise the surgeon, the astronaut, the one who can change things.

18.06.2011

SO glad this in last round. Still love it. Wish I'd written it! Makes me smile and really resonates. Hope it's a prize winner

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