MAG Poetry Competition 2011 – Winning Poem
Ruby and Me at Baby Clinic
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.