Cosmic Grace

I have avoided writing a poem about Grace for a long time because she is much better at poetry than me. I first started liking poetry at university when we lived together, and she would read it aloud to me.

Grace found out she had cancer just under a year ago. She has dealt with the whole thing with a vaguely pissed off nonchalance which I have found staggering: I can’t even deal with being gossiped about or talking to strangers on the phone. But yesterday she was reasonably frustrated: after being asked to move to a Young Person’s Cancer unit, the ward sister told her she couldn’t use the special facilities (a TV room, x boxes, the kitchen) on the near empty ward because they were for young persons aged 25 and below. Grace turned 26 last month. And she’s recovering from cancer. The lack of compassion was unfathomable.

So I wrote this sonnet thinking about how the nurse was more attached to the rule and to her patient as a statistic rather than seeing Grace as a person.  And she is a wonderful person.

Emily x

p.s. I love this second photo of Grace, because the fish tank in the background reminds me that when we lived together in our 4th year, we bought two fishes (Dolly and Kenny) which mysteriously died within 24 hours of purchase. Being the lazy layabouts that we were back then, we just scooped out and disposed of the dead fish, then kept the tank – death water and all – on display for approximately 6 months. With this level of commitment to hygiene in mind, it wasn’t particularly surprising that we had a vermin issue.

Glastonbury, 2010.
Nasmith Road, Norwich. 2010
60B Nasmith Road, Norwich. 2010
Cosmic Grace
Today you are yellow and twenty-six.
I can see that these stats make you feel blue.
The skies around the ward are charcoal grey
But colours prismatic still burst from you.
The ward sister is a bleach white abyss.
(Cancer’s cool at twenty-five and under).
Your cogent disdain is cool duck egg blue
But your outrage strikes as blood red thunder.
You read poetry in smooth pastel rose
and daydream of whales in aquamarine.
Your dream to win crufts is black, white and gold.
Your shrieking fits of laughter are forest green.
The sister may be colour-blind on YPC,
But you’re more than twenty-six and yellow to me.

You Are Whole

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice. ‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’ – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

You are whole

Remind yourself
that spray tans and acrylics
cannot accessorise your soul.
Don’t let stilettos substitute
your inner wealth
and remember:
you are whole.

Don’t spend your time
hook-a-ducking lovers
while your own heart dulls to coal.
Don’t map your worth
by valentines.
Throw them out.
You are whole.

Fill your hours with your whims
and guiltless pleasure
not the virtues others extol.
Drink a cup of kindness
to your own health
for you are you.
And you are whole.

This Too Shall Pass

Storm over Saigon, July 2015. (Photo from
Storm over Saigon, July 2015. (Photo from

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Little Women

Just before I moved home from Vietnam I was having dinner in Phu My Hung when a storm started tearing through the district. It ripped the cutlery off the tables and the branches out of the trees. Everyone was panicking and shouting and, for a moment, I felt like Dorothy in Kansas: half terrified and half excited by the potential of the destruction it might wreak. I wrote this poem today for a good friend with the image of that storm in my mind.

Emily x

Rider Of The Storm

You are more than what you feel today.

For now, put on your raincoat.
Zip it tight under your chin.
Pull on your galoshes
and begin
to step outside.

Let the rain sheet down
but tell it  you don’t care.
You hear but won’t feel it.
You’re safe in here
inside your raincoat.

Pass the warm coffee shops.
Feel not shame but pride
that you’re braving the storm
while others huddle inside.

Don’t despair that – for now –
you can’t feel the warm.
Keep on walking
and believe
that you’ll outlive the storm.