“Keeping You Close” and Other Poems, by Hélène Demetriades

Keeping You Close
    
Here you are: eyes clenched, 
face smeared in white greasepaint.

The subtlest tremor behind your eyes
when I touch the top of your head.

Now gone.

I’m wheeled into a side room, 
stitched up, left waiting. 

The anaesthetist arrives, asks, 
Where’s the baby?
 
Later I see photos of your first hour:
waxy fists, red lips, gummy eyes now ajar,
bawling at your father; the midwife mired 
in official forms, wrapping up his shift.
 
That night on the ward dark figures loom
in spectral succession at the end of my bed
admonishing me for keeping you
tucked to my chest.
In Solitude Together

You at the river’s edge, your walking stick
and painful hip, me wading to the spot 
where the rivers’ join, turning my head, 
catching your eye. This is our church –
the quietness of the river’s gush and pour,
the sullen rocks, a mother’s longing 
for her daughter beyond the hailstone chatter.
A Visit from my Mother
 
The doll-eyed 9-year-old sits on a Paris pony,
bare thighed, jacket ribboned at her throat.

Tonight she comes to me as an elder 
striding across the plains of death, 
the horse Abdullah at her side like one 
of the big cats, legs shorter than in life, 
ears pricked forward, nose nudging me.
 
In the day-bright dream 
I cradle his enraptured face, 
wish to keep him for the winter, 
ride him in Greenwich park.

You’ll need to know how to saddle him.
I know, I say, pull the girth in twice.

‘In Solitude Together’ was published earlier this year by the webzine Snakeskin.  All three poems will appear in her debut collection ‘The Plumb Line’ to be published by Hedgehog Press in mid February 2022.  An earlier version of ‘A Visit from my Mother’ was commended in the Teignmouth Festival Poetry competition 2021.

Hélène won the Hedgehog Press Full Fat Poetry Collection competition in 2020, and will have her debut collection ‘The Plumb Line’ published in Spring 2022.  She has been published in numerous poetry magazines, anthologies and webzines.  In 2021, she was highly commended in the International Poetry On The Lake competition, and shortlisted in the Wells Open Poetry competition.  She was once an actor, but has now worked as a transpersonal psychotherapist for the last 25 years, and lives in South Devon with her husband and daughter.

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