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Handfast, by Ruth Aylett and Beth McDonough

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From the back cover of this 36 page pamphlet:

In Handfast, Scottish poets Ruth Aylett and Beth McDonough explore the dynamics of dementia and autism within the context of family life. These poems reflect, find parallels and ask what really happens when the generation before or after is affected.

How is the fabric and feasting of day-to-day life changed by these conditions, and what were the early signs, hopes and disappointments? These poems do not shirk from harsh realities, but find shared spaces and connections, and even comfort and the surprise of humour.

In Handfast, we learn about the heart, ‘this million-shattered glass’, the power of rain, and that, sometimes, riddles remain unsolved.

Ruth and Beth’s jointly written poem, ‘A Litany across Generations’, now in Handfast, was placed second in Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Compound Poem competition 2015.

Two poems from Handfast:

 

Birthday postings

Through a baffle pillow
an early traffic boom bruises
into this wantless day. I turn
another ear, backache
into dawn. Yesterday’s yarns
spool out. Later I steal

his trampoline-happy image, crop
his seventeen years of age-
inappropriate self
into that half-turn, great unaware smile.

I thread round his bolt from the car door,
his repeat pattern stalk in and away from
this party, pizza to toilet and back,
all unravelled presents, his never never want
to be there.

I filigree something round this day’s holes
as Gran crocheted doilies
to save tables from vases. I silk him
beautiful onto the Facebook page
he’ll never know
accept all the likes of our day.

 

BETH MCDONOUGH

 

Birthday  

A day of sun and cloud
The same question again
and again ‘Is it my birthday?
Who will come?’
‘Who would you like?’ we say.
Clouds deepening, looks like rain.

You invite the pharmacist
from your first ever job
the man who’d just lost his wife
and shouted at you so much
you dropped the jar
he’d asked you to fetch.

You invite all those young men
Canadian bomber pilots
birds of paradise in
workaday Somerset
they were so soon gone,
nothing but grief to love.

And the Indian officer who
bought you wonderful cloth
printed with scenes of France
Your mother told you off
forbade you to write
now you’ll be able to apologise.

A shower clatters on the window,
candle flames on your cake flicker
in the breath of your absent guests.
Uninvited but here, there’s us.
And when you see your two sons
that brilliant smile reaches your eyes.

 

RUTH AYLETT

 

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