3 poems from Jenny Pagdin

First published in AMBIT 244, Jenny Pagdin’s Discharge Day is published in AMBIT 246. Here we share the full trio which was submitted.

Voice of the fire setter

All childhood we played Ships and Lighthouses,
sailing near to the fire behind its mesh:
faces tinted orange by the ghost-soft flames.

It was Elijah’s chariot we turned to
over and over in our Usborne Bible
and matchsticks were a weekly treat:

ten counted into cross-legged laps
like sweeties. I could smell the smoke
the moment they got me on the ward.

The cardamom warmth of the hearth
was back in my eyes, comforting and gritty.
We needed a burning, burning,

a cleansing of the hospital
like someone sterilising surgical instruments
– there were just too many of us sick.

Blistered against the spark wheel,
my thumb teased out a tea-light flame,
let it die and called it forth again.

The thought of all those branching corridors
aflame from my little lighter, was as giddying
as an oak packed into an acorn.

Discharge day

was the calm after a pneumatic drill
but they needed one last bloods

that no-one could coerce
from my tender veins.

All morning, the weather close,
shepherded from building to building,

I clutched my meds like a party bag:
Olanzapine, Diazepam.

I might have risen out of my own husk:
nebulous, just twenty-one grams, the soul’s weight,

while happiness was scribbling away
in white ink, about my future.

Hospital time

But it can’t be psychosis if all of us
hear the recorder play itself upstairs
and see the blood and the muffled fire in the writing paper
of that ramshackle house, where Dad rises
at 3am to fix us stroganoff and we all of us
lie on the same bare mattress
watching a crucifix languidly spin.

It’s just that we are more permeable before we dream
– like all the voices on the bus
or a radio tuned in to two channels at once –
which means it’s okay to talk to Anna, who’s dead.
Then I call for my meds and you tell me I’ve had them,
all of them, on the train. And that once again
it’s hospital time for us. But it can’t be….

Jenny Pagdin’s pamphlet Caldbeck was shortlisted for the Mslexia pamphlet competition and listed by the Poetry Book Society. She was long-listed for the Rebecca Swift Foundation prize 2018 and has poems published or forthcoming with Magma, Ink Sweat & Tears, Wild Court, Smoke, and Finished Creatures. jennypagdin.co.uk

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