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Think instead of sudden bright

sun on dark trunks,

the warm smell of rot

and Hyacinths in the shops.

Watch a young cat step

gingerly through brown leaves


                 from Anticipation by Elizabeth Davies







Ghost of the Middlesex Hospital

Sewing Power

Haiku Son

New England House

Television Signal


Overgrown Heart

Coldrum Stones

Delivery Instructions

Inheritance patterns 




1 Ė BIOGRAPHY:  Elizabeth Davies


Elizabeth Davies is an academic public health doctor at Kingís College London. She first published Ďtalesí from her medical training in medical journals in 1999 and started writing poetry during a visit to Boston in 2004. She has read at Sydenham Arts Festival and South Bank Poetry events, and presented on the role of poetry in Medicine at conferences. She has contributed to PN Review and recently published poems in Ithacalit, Synesthesia Literary Journal and South Bank Poetry Anthology 2017.





Ghost of the Middlesex Hospital


I can walk down Riding House Street

through the hoardings around

this gaping sacred place to find

the board outside The Bland Sutton

Lecture Theatre where students gather

for the final posting of the marks.


I can go up to Psychiatry for a round

of anorexic tales and down to the 

garden to revise for a prize I will not win.

I can buy a League of Friendsí notebook 

and record the history of a teenager with cancer

to background chatter of the canteen staff.


I can climb the green-tiled staircase

past airy landings where one-legged men 

wheel together in chairs to pass their time.

I can push the polished ward handle

to visit a woman who has smoked too much

but is dying for her August copy of Vogue.


I can walk down the stairs in my short white coat

flouncing my skirt, too junior yet to know

whatís in the lungs of young gay men.

I can leave by the front entrance where patients

still wait on green leather chairs for transport,

to the soft rubber thud of revolving doors.


I can sit in a Cleveland Street cafť

before a crane lifts the CT scanner out,

searching for some prediction of this end.

I can curse and infect with quiet efficiency 

these new flats stacked for luxury lying,

over the precious last lights of othersí lives.



Sewing power


My grandmotherís sewing machine hung upside down

beneath two ancient pots of violets,

locked in a cupboard like a black and gold bat.

Some adult magic opened up its wings

and a treadle fired the bobbinís hum.

Shavings from three decades of flight through

curtains and dresses and damask cloths

remained, caught in the ragbag below.

When I was eight it seemed the focus of this thrift,

had been so I could rewind strange threads on reels,

sort through odd buttons and elastic,

and plunge my hands again, deep into

the soft slivers of poplin, lint and lawn,

smelling the coloured shreds of my motherís youth.



Haiku son


Pain suddenly dissolves,

stomach deflates, releasing

the childís first cry of rage.


Dawn birds filter through

the soft cracks of the curtains

bringing in the sound of light.


Drops of water in the winter

cherry blossom catch my eye

and splinter into blue light.


A tall man separates from the crowd

and, as he moves to greet me,

I recognise my son.



New England House


Under the large-leafed trees,

past the pudding stone

and gothic prosperity of Pill Hill,

up onto the beige porch and

its honeycomb of shutters,

there is a sense of coming home

through the screen door,

into this New England House.


The grandfather clock beside the landing

window strikes early sending

sunlight across the post on the table into

a shaded living room of books and rugs.

A pantry holds the china safe, 

and brown back stairs curve up to

polished corridors that clatter between

heavy doors of patchwork bedrooms.


In the garden clumps of mosquitoes quiver,

and jays screech as if to emphasise the calm

distinguished air of doctors, men of letters,

and one hundred years of womenís care.

And in the back white kitchen, 

that once required a household of help,

Joan still cooks her guests a meal from scratch

while listening to their tales.



Television signal

I have an early memory

of dinosaurs that werenít

at Alexandra Palace where

my dad had driven by mistake.

We stared twenty miles

across London from one television

mast to another trying to make them out.

My son had a charmed childhood,

living in Sydenham near the other mast.

His dad took him by pushchair,

so he saw real dinosaurs every week. 



Overgrown heart


The curved edges of the lawn

have grown into the borders,

where dried columbine trails

over couch grass and dandelions.


The privet balls have unclipped,

the greenhouse is full of rot,

descendants of those childhood weeds

you paid us by the bucket are rife.


Last week my mother watched you

creep like an old man up the path.

The bathroom window always

gave the best view of the garden,

and from there I see your dying heart.





Some people seem determined

to be disappointed by February

finding proof in grey skies,

dank air and rain. Again.

Think instead of sudden bright

sun on dark trunks,

the warm smell of rot

and Hyacinths in the shops.

Watch a young cat step

gingerly through brown leaves

on a wet lawn, past rose sticks 

and run between warmth and cold, 

knowing nothing of his first Spring.

Pity only the birds left

in the park after dusk.


Coldrum Stones


We trek down the sweeping hill

through a woodland tunnel

and reach the Pilgrimís Way,

where waves blow through

wheat like water in a dish.


The Neolithic spirit remains still

making my son pose with a stick,

while behind him women

in long skirts sway and hum,

communing with their gods.



Delivery instructions


Took me some time to find the gates,

and that lane needs tarmac

and those trees cutting back.

You canít bring the van down.

Beats me why they ask for delivery,

should carry the load down themselves.


Mind you the garden once you get through

the gate in the hedge is nice and secluded.

Roses could do with me dadís trimming.

Needs a bit of work, daisies in the lawn,

grass in the paving, but pleasant in a way.


Lucky their house is detached, looks roomy.

Lots of books, bit stingy on the carpets though.

The lady was the polite kind,

trying to make you feel at home.

Told her she could charge for deckchairs

in the afternoon if she wanted.


Inheritance patterns


Dust on my fingertips from the bottom drawer

reminds me of my grandparentsí desk,

full of things that might be useful.

Pens from forgotten hotels,

sellotape with reduced stick,

un-washable ink, the wrong size staples,

and always too many rubber bands.





Sewing Power Ithacalit  http://ithacalit.com/elizabeth-davies.html

Haiku Son https://issuu.com/synesthesialitjournal/docs/synlitjour_vol4.1 p27

Ghost of the Middlesex Hospital South Bank Poetry: London Poems Anthology 2017 p48


4 - Afterword

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