SURVIVAL

1

When the cot wouldn’t stop howling
night unstitched its gentle blanket and smacked

the kitchen clock’s face. Death was a vision
of a bloated sheep slowly floating downriver.

By day I was trapped in the tube of the hoover’s
extended arm, fear filled my lungs with dust.

The years ahead stood before me blank
as a line of empty buckets but I knew they’d fill

with panic, its manic dance as time and again
I failed to measure up as a real mother.

2

When I received the diagnosis death jumped up
taller than life, laughed at the bright words

the consultant was mouthing and pointed its gun
at my head. Reeling, I looked into its two nostrils.

The words crumpled. Then the walls collapsed
as if they were the pieces of paper the wolf

had huffed. We drove home and the future
fled along the gutters with the thunder-rain,

so hurling my favourite teacup, the one patterned
with redcurrants – across the kitchen – was useless.

3

And yet somewhere inside the empty self
were threads I didn’t know I possessed.

Love was it? kindness? that tugged, set me
on my feet, worked my arms and legs.

There was the day when a girl in mauve
put a tray of powder paints into my hand

and I unleashed on the sugar-paper treefuls
of turquoise leaves, a pram with easy wheels.

There was the day, years on, when snowdrops,
defying the forest of bare twigs above them,

stopped me in the street, spurred me to latch
onto words, defeat the terror lodged in my head.

© 2014, poem, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved; originally published in Envoi (Issue 63) and more recently in ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 13

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