I wake to a residue of milk playing in your throat. Through the window starlings coagulate in the no-colour dawn, each bird distinct, but utterly in thrall to formations of twist, kite, looming bee-swarm. Your single cry’s answered by a parched breaking in my chest and a laboured rush of hot liquid. As I lift you from your crib, still balled up and loaded with sleep, I know soon you’ll uncurl, walk away to a point I can’t hear you. The birds rise together as though on an up-draught. I spread your outstretched fingers on the back of my hand as you work away at one breast – ears pulling in time, toes curling; your whole body drinking – and lost milk from my other breast grows cold as rain on my nightdress.
by Sally Read
© Sally Read, 2009
'Broken Sleep' is the title poem of Sally Read's
second collection (Bloodaxe Books, 2009). It comes from a cycle of poems
addressed to a baby from a mother, moving from the uncertainty and awe
at the discovery of a pregnancy through to the ecstasy of early
motherhood. It charts, with tenderness, the child’s development from a
foetus in the dark, to a walking, talking toddler in a bewildering and
exciting world. The poems comprise a hymn and an elegy to the experience
of pregnancy and early motherhood.
The second part of the book, The Glass Eye, moves swiftly into a
world where loss, whether of a loved one, a breast, or simply innocence,
is countered by extraordinary kinds of redemption. Whether conjuring
angels, music, or lies, these pieces offer a sometimes disturbing but
always marvellous alternative to the unavoidable blackness behind the
You can find out more about the collection here, more about Sally Read at this page, and hear her read from her work at the Poetry Archive (if you cannot hear the recording here, click on the link entitled 'open player in a new window').
Founded in Newcastle in 1978, Bloodaxe Books
is one of Britain's leading independent poetry publishers.
Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in
book design, its authors and books have won virtually every major
literary award given to poetry. Details of all Bloodaxe's publications, plus sample video and audio clips of poets reading their work, can be found here.
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