A girl slipped out that white January dawn
a neat six pounder, causing no grief.
Not slapped or pumped, she simply opened,
pulled in air that silent moment
when the women held theirs.
She spread her ribs
ballooning slippery lungs,
then the red heart squeezed
exhaled a wail. Midwife and Mother
let go their sighs,
the small girl
had learnt to cry.
Ellen Phethean runs Diamond Twig Press, which she founded with Julia Darling. She also works as a poet, playwright and editor. (Read more about Ellen here). This is what she says about Breath:
The poem Breath began a long time ago on an Arvon course at Sheepwash with U.A. Fanthorpe and Jacqueline Brown sometime in the '90s. I was struggling with my sense of inadequacy as a poet. Jacqueline set me an exercise: Learning to...
So the poem began, but it sat in a folder for years, until I did my MA in 2008 and was putting my portfolio together. I was re-examining lots of old poems. It suddenly seemed to have a relevance in the new circumstances I found myself in, a good beginning poem about my own birth but hinting at what was to come.
It also changed its named from Learning to to Breath and became the title of the whole collection, and part of a unifying set of words and themes.
Breath, Ellen's first full-length collection, was published by Flambard Press in 2009; it is reissued by Red Squirrel Press to coincide with publication of her new collection, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman.
Another Poem of the Month from Ellen: Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
Breath © 2009 Ellen Phethean: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.