Where new writing finds its voice


Katharine Lazenby

Here mothers and housewives shed forty years,
swaddle themselves in Winnie-the-Pooh
Padding down corridors in thick socks, 
unsteady legs take tentative steps, 
learning to walk or marking time.
A nurse waits with outstretched arms to catch them when they fall.
We sit in aggressive silence. 
Lips sealed to stopper the flow of words.
Language is insufficient, feelings formless.
So we act up, lash out, spill milk like tears. 

Here tantrums delayed for decades reduce adults to crumpled heaps,
rattling the bars of the playpen.
Rules, so they tell us, are crutches, stabilisers, stitches. 
We are propped up by ‘boundaries’:
locked gates of routine, allocated doses of fresh air and freedom. 
Here we are schooled to unlearn old tricks.
Our table manners leave a lot to be desired.
We are spoon-fed
or eat under instruction, 
like so, like so, like so:
          knives are for cutting not scraping
          butter belongs on the bread not the plate
          salad dressing is part of a salad
          sandwiches should not be opened up or worried to bits
          pick up more then one pea at a time
          be mindful of the time
          scrape the plate clean.
Pockets are checked for biscuits,
sleeves for pieces of toast.
Butter fingers let sauce slip.

Bitter pills are swallowed at bedtime,
hot mugs cupped close to the chest,
rising heat soothes worn faces and dries salt on cheeks.
The dark corridor is paced at night.
Sleep is restless, 
In the blackout the beam of a torch scans humid rooms, 
checking that we have not drowned.
We retreat to corners and dark cupboards,
draw knees to our chest,
curl heads into crooked elbows.
Searching for the comfort of an absent embrace, 
longing for our original selves,
uncontaminated and pregnant with possibility.