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  Janet Sutherland



Here you are walking towards me, far from home

For CT

Here you are standing in your kitchen;

You’d baked but your morphine dose

could skew the scales, so you weighed

and measured, weighed and measured,

started over when the first cake failed.



Small hollows judder under the wheel.

Little finches fly in feints and dashes

through the hedge. It’s ordinary — I see you

sometimes, where you cannot be,

rising early, walking out by the roadside.



In the Land of Green Ginger

On the café counter a battered copy
of Poem for the Day is open

at the Egyptian Poem. November
has fogged the plate glass window.

We are marooned again. Death
is before me today, wrote the poet

like the odour of myrrh, but the air
outside is raw and the sea,

just down the road, is a flat grey slab.
We’d watched a fishing boat slip

backwards into it like the course
of a freshet. The fishermen were shadows

inside their wheelhouse when smoke
from the funnel suddenly belched.

Then we came here.And all of us are nursing
tea between cold hands and waiting

sitting on the shore of drunkenness.



Measures of distance

in January the water is so clear
a milky light lies on the muzzles
of the fish

they wait suspended
all the shadows   the reflections
the deceits have passed


each breath is shallower
than the one before

the last is ragged   hopeful   lost

            and then
those little
            after gasps


out of one
who’d always
            turned his head
from a kiss


in 1939 his father wrote
I miss you very much
his whole school
having been evacuated

I was just looking at your room this morning
and wishing you were home

this room is already empty
the face above the sheets
has gone to clay

now son take care of yourself


when I ran the electric shaver
over your chin 

            the rasp of stubble was
audible above the buzz
we may want you
to meet us somewhere

the ping   ping   ping
of the monitors
judging those flows
in your heart
erratic and inconsistent

impossibly distant

the retching breath
impossibly close

you may have to tackle
your life work soon


the slippery cold
eases through mouth and gill

a mildewed down softens
their scales to fur

their lazy fins   are fluttering
fluttering against the water



The Jenny Lind

January 6th 1913 


My dear Pater, I am very weary
we were up last night till 2.30
operating on a baby  Obstruction
Doing well

We had great sport at Christmas
the Residents gave a concert
we were in costume
and much admired

I sang “King Charles”
and “Take a pair of sparkling eyes”
We had nearly a week of snow
I believe there was skating

My bike is a Rudge Whitworth
TT model and does up to 57
miles an hour  The police
are very good No traps at all

Several heavy cases lately
One of the men Walker was doing
a tracheotomy yesterday
on a diphtheria baby

and got some of the stuff
on his face  He has a bad sore throat
and I hope he is not going to get “dip”
Yours ever, John


Copyright © Janet Sutherland, 2014.