Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Isn't life funny!

In my last blog I shared the three poems I'd written for my recent Open University assignment. What I didn't mention was that I wasn't very happy with the mark I received! The course book and Cd's tell you that you must write a poem then keep on coming back to it and changing it time and time again. The funny thing is that the poem the tutor seemed to like best was the last one 'A Silent Place' which I was inspired to write from a prompt and I didn't change a word from my first draft!. Even more ironic then that, at a recent day school I ended up writing a poem that my tutor said was a 'keeper'. I guess all the studying  must be working then!

Let me explain.

During the course of the day we were given twenty minutes to write about an event in our past that was 'raw' and emotional. But we had to write about it without emotion, yet using our description of the setting to try and convey what was happening. After we'd written the story, we were then asked to 'pare' it down as a way of transforming the prose into poetry. The tutor wanted us to do this exercise as for our next assignment, which is to be a piece of Life Writing, we can write poems instead of prose. Something I'll not be doing I hasten to add!

Here is the story and poem which resulted. Can you guess what it's about?

The white cotton sheets felt soothing to my sweat soaked body.The subdued lighting in the room created a womb-like atmosphere. I looked at the white plastic clock on the wall in front of me. How much longer? Then I glanced over to my right to the dark head of my husband resting on the tan plastic chair. His eyes were closed and his chest moved slowly up and down as he slept. Dark shadows under his eyes.

 'Are you OK?' I looked to my left at the midwife who'd entered the room. Her starched, white uniform making the walls of the room appear grey in comparison. Gently, she took a hold of my wrist to check my pulse. A scream echoed from a room down the corridor. 'I just need to examine you to see how things are progressing. Is that ok?' I nodded, then pulled aside the thin sheet covering me. Closing my eyes I slid down the bed. At the sound of the midwife's voice, my husband woke with a start. ''What's happening? Is it time?' I shook my head, unable to speak. Leaning forward, he took my hand, careful not to disturb the drip attached. Another scream sounded from down the hall. This time it was the cat-like cry of a new born. Gently he squeezed my hand. 'It's going to be OK! We're going to be OK!'


White cotton sheets soothe
Sweat soaked skin.
Subdued lighting;
Grey walls;
Ticking clock;
A grey womb.

Dark head resting on
Tan plastic chair
Chest moving slowly
Up and down.
Dark shadows shade
My husband's eyes.

Silently she enters,
The white clad nurse.
A soothing presence.
'Are you OK?'

A scream.

Not mine.

Not mine.

He wakes, concern on his face.
'Is it time?'
I shake my head.

How far?

How long?

So tired.

Isabel Johnstone 2014 ©


  1. You really are talented Isabel, that was very moving.

    1. Thank you Tina. I'm working hard to improve my writing, especially poetry.

  2. I agree with Tina - it feels autobiographical, it's so real

    1. Thanks Peter. It is autobiographical. But I'm pleased that I've managed to make it feel real to you as a reader.