Consultations With My Mother

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Pencil Drawing of ‘Two Apples’ by my Mum (with permission)

Continuing the theme of mothers and daughters I’ve asked my Mum to collaborate with me on a project called ‘Consultations With My Mother.’

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as my Mum is a comedy genius, she just doesn’t always realise this!

Our phone conversations often follow along a medical bent, with a lot of laughing and chat around art and what she and I have been respectively up to.

I will try to post regularly about these conversations in a variety of prose and poetry forms and post pictures taken by my Mum of her art work and general observations…

 

 

I – Stumped

 

I saw the Physio,

she said, ‘It’s back.’

 

What’s back?

 

The Prolapse, like I said.

 

Despite me being a GP

My mother doesn’t believe

Anything I say about her health.

 

I’ve got a tablet,

To put in my fanny.

 

Excellent news,

I’m pleased for you.

 

Vag- Vagi- ?

Hang on, I’m just going

Upstairs.

 

I rest the phone between ear and

Shoulder; listen to her footsteps.

(It was Laxi-do-do the week before)

 

Vagifem! Est –ra –di –ol

10 micrograms, insert every

Night for two weeks.

 

Yup. I know the one.

 

I was worried all night,

What if the thing had got stuck?

 

What thing?

 

You know, the applicator,

It didn’t go click.

 

Hmm.

 

I thought the tablet

Might fall out in the morning,

In the middle of my Pi-la-tes class

 

(The way she stresses the syllables makes

It sound like a Starbucks promotion.)

 

Well that would have been

Something to talk about.

 

It’s not funny Eleanor

 

Oh, it’s just the way

You tell it Mum.

 

Well anyway, my drawings are

Coming on nicely. For the first time

I feel like something I’ve done is good.

 

Congratulations.

 

Really good. I’ve got the magic touch.

These two apples, they’re brilliant.

 

You’ve always been

Good at drawing Mum.

 

Yes but I’ve never been happy before,

It’s taken sixty-four years for me to be happy

With something I’ve done.

 

You should send me a photo.

 

It’s never as good as seeing them

‘in-the-flesh.’

 

Well, do it anyway.

I’ll frame them and put it

On the wall.

 

No. They’re not that good.

I’ve got everything lined up

Against the skirting board.

 

I just bought a Tortillion.

 

A what?

 

Tor-till-ion. It’s a rolled up

Paper drawing tool,

for smudging and shading.

 

I Google it: ‘Similar to a blending stump.’

 

You can make them yourself,

I watched it on You Tube.

 

Given my mother’s recent hysterectomy

And prolapse repair, something about

this paper ‘stump’ reminds me…

 

It stops the oils in your skin

Ruining the drawing.

 

Did they leave your cervix behind?

 

Pardon?

 

A cervical stump?

 

I’m not sure I know what you mean…

 

Ignore me, your Tortillion –

So did you make one?

 

No, the guy in the art shop said

They’re so cheap, it’s not worth it.

 

You’re still going to those

Classes then.

 

Oh yes, I’m the best one there.

 

Of course! 

 

Send me a pic,

Of the apples I mean.

 

I’ll try. You know,

Me and computers.

 

I think you’ll manage.

 

By the way Mum, how would

You feel about me recording

These phone conversations?

 

She pauses.

 

Well I don’t think I’d say anything.

 

No, didn’t think you would.

I won’t do that then.

 

I’d prefer you not to.

 

Fair enough. Bye Mum,

Speak to you next week.

 

The consultation over,

We go our separate ways.

 

 

 

 

Poem copyright Eliot North (2016)

 

My Mother Visits the Dissection Room

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A photo of Mum’s favourite shoes….

Dissection Painting

Image: Anatomical demonstration of an open human body, lying on a wooden table in a poor room. Woodcut illustration in Bartholomeus Anglicus, Lyon, 1485.

The poem below came out of a writing exercise where I imagined what would happen if someone who was unused to an environment that I knew very well, entered it as my guest.

I’ve found my vivid memories of Anatomy teaching and Dissection as a medical student at Nottingham Medical School combined with my more recent visits to UK Anatomy and Pathology Museums and Medical School Dissection Rooms, has infiltrated my writing in many ways.

My collaboration with artist Rachael Allen, now ongoing in our explorations of embodiment and pain with Tracey Tofield and Angela Kennedy continue to inform my writing, both poetry and prose.

This poem is also celebration of the age old struggle that is the mother-daughter relationship!

 

My Mother Visits the Dissection Room

 

She said she wanted to go there.

So I pulled some strings,

read her the rules.

“Sensible shoes?” she said.

“Yes Mother. Plus clothes

you don’t mind ruined.

Fixers, they don’t wash out.

The smell will get you,

but not of death. More chemicals

like wax and rubber.”

But my mother, being my mother

didn’t seem to mind.

Walked right up to the

plastic head,

stuck her hand inside.

“You won’t even know

I’m here,” she said.

Pulled on a dark-blue lab coat.

Watched closely

as I unzipped the body bag,

revealed cavities and cages.

Stood on tiptoes to peer inside,

scribbled in her notebook.

So I placed a stool

three feet away;

her territory and mine.

When the students filed in

they looked at her,

the older woman with colourful shoes.

Whilst I quizzed the students,

she daubed her paints.

At the end they crowded round her.

Admired her line and

brave use of colour

whilst I put the organs back.

As the students left

she called out to them.

“Call me Poppy!” she cried.

They waved from the door.

“Weren’t they interesting?

What a wonderful body,

all those nooks and crannies.”

I slung the heart in a plastic bag.

Looked at my watch

before herding her out.

Then as we went to the door

she turned round and said,

“Shall we say the same time next week?”

 

 

Copyright Eliot North (2016)

Fluffy Pink Socks

Fluffy Pink Socks

Fluffy Pink Socks

Peggy had a cough. A thick suffocating rattle that shook her bird-like frame, phlegm rising to form a glob in her mouth that she then promptly swallowed. I watched as it moved like a rubber ball back down her scrawny neck before she could catch her breath, like a snake might swallow an egg.

Her hair had been set into soft, bruised curls. A contrast to the white wires that sprouted from her chin. She wore a nightgown that was covered with small jaundiced flowers. Her vein-blue cardigan was spattered with an archipelago of gravy islands. She had a pair of fluffy pink socks on her feet.

Peggy and I talked, as much as you can do with someone who doesn’t know who they are anymore. I examined her pigeon chest and dowager’s hump with my stethoscope, listening to the suck of air across the pools of secretions trapped in her honeycomb lungs. I gave the nurse a prescription with instructions and when I left Peggy raised a hand in my direction but she had already forgotten who I was.

Days later when they opened the compartment door I recognised Peggy immediately. Not by the white hairs on her now slack chin or the milky pancakes of her once blue eyes but by the fluffy pink socks that she still had on, keeping her feet warm in the undertaker’s fridge.

 

Copyright Eliot North (2016)

Posting older anatomy writing that is just sitting on my computer gathering dust.  This short story was inspired by a combination of my own Grandmother Margaret (who went by the  name of Peggy) and a number of encounters I had as a GP, including a pair of memorable pink socks.

Just what the doctor ordered! Poetry at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore 4th July

Gotta get along to this on the 4th of July, what a line up!

JENNY LEWIS

Here is the poster for the evening of poetry that will do you good. Please see below for full biographies of the poets. See you there!

Sam Guglani is an oncologist and writer of short fiction and poetry. He completed the Oxford University MSt. in Creative Writing with distinction in 2014. X-Ray was one of the winners of the Parallel Universe Poetry competition in 2013 and A Wedding Horse was included in the anthology A Charnel House in 2014. His collection of poems A Field Like This was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Pamphlet Prize in 2015. A number of his poems will be published in Shearsman in September 2015. His column on medicine and the arts will begin in The Lancet in late 2015. He is Director and Curator of Medicine Unboxed, a project he founded in 2009, which aims to engage health professionals and the public in conversations around…

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The Crab Man: Commended in the National Poetry Competition

http://http://poetrysociety.org.uk/poems/the-crab-man/

The Crab Man
by Eliot North

Turn left, close the gate
Enter Mariner’s Lane.

The road to the shore
Is all salt and tar.

Go right down to
Correction House Bank.

Smell the fish guts,
Feel it pull you.

Push Gossip’s voice
Far from your mind.

Ignore the shudder
Of trains, overhead.

Down Tanner’s Bank
Pick your way.

Head held high,
Nose to the wind,

Past empty warehouses.
Go to The Crab Man.

Block out the warning
Tone of her voice.

See him in his red robes,
Inside the chainmail door.

Feel the cleaver’s rhythm
Smashed over and over.

Watch how he stills,
Cocks an ear to the sound.

The swish of metal skirts
Closing behind you.

About this poem

First published in 2014.

‘The Crab Man’ was commended in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.

Filmpoem directed by Alastair Cook with cinematography and sound by Eliot North. Commissioned in collaboration with Filmpoem.

From the judges The Crab Man: ”I delight in the concision of this. That’s a very small number of words with which to evoke or whisper a topography, a weather, an economy, a society, faith, loss of faith – it has the coiled strength of a fine short story. It’s controlled, measured, paying out like ship’s rope. Its ear is excellent. Its voice is tight with sorrow, it can’t stop whatever will happen.” – Glyn Maxwell.

‘The Crab Man’ was written in a workshop where ‘Roads’ by George Mackay Brown, was read as a prompt and formed a jumping-off point for the poem.

Eliot North

Eliot North is a doctor, medical educator and writer who lives and works in the North East of England. The poem ‘The Crab Man’ was written and submitted as part of her Creative Writing PostGrad Certificate completed at Newcastle University in 2014. She won the EuroStemCell Creative Non-Fiction Poetry competition in 2013, was commended for the Hippocrates Poetry Prize 2014 and has appeared in Firewords Quarterly. She is currently looking to publish her first poetry pamphlet Suture Lines. She was commended in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2014.

Lenten Psalm contest

I love this idea for a competition and great writing prompt generally…

Structo magazine blog

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Contest logo by Sarah Mushong

For the last couple of years, Structo’s poetry editor Matthew Landrum has run a Lenten Psalm contest over on his blog. This year we’re running it together, and in addition to Matthew’s excellent US$200 first prize, we will be publishing the chosen poem in Structo issue 12 and giving the winning poet a two-year subscription to the magazine.

The idea is that you pick any biblical Psalm and create your own version in English. There’s no wrong way to go about approaching a Psalm, but the end result should be a poem that combines the soul of the original with your own personality as well as poetic and personal vision. Feel free to mangle, tangle, make strange, reverse and experiment. The goal is to make strong poetry, whatever form that takes.

You don’t need to have any knowledge of Hebrew, and no religious…

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