My mother turns up on the labour ward laden
carrying bags full of baby clothes in all shapes and sizes.
My mother arrives, bringing bags of confectionery
Liquorice Allsorts, Jelly Babies, and smart magazines.
She has all sorts of babies that never grew bone
secreted deep in her memorable belly.
My mother turns up with a knitting bag bearing her errors,
the pattern gone wrong; she can’t bear to unravel her efforts.
My mother arrives, back breaking with bundles of books,
serious tomes she will never manage to finish.
My mother comes loaded with food for a journey:
she still needs to feed the me she once starved at the breast.
My mother flies in with a rucksack of risk warnings
tormenting her like swarms of red ants.
She dumps all her burdens on my dishevelled bed
flies once round the lights and away.
A P Hill is currently retired. She was formerly a GP and NHS Medical Director. Her previously published work includes ‘Hares Crossing’, a poem published on the Poetry Oxford website, 2017; ‘The magpies are nesting again’, South Magazine, Oct 2017; and The Last Bus, a play performed in Writefest at Progress theatre, Reading, in October 2017.
Carol Ann Duffy says: A P Hill’s ‘Labour’ has a quirky and hyper-real Russian-doll feeling about it. The mother arrives at the bedside of the daughter who is herself about to have a baby. All the things that irritate the daughter about her mother are deposited – dumped – on the bed, as though this new mother will inherit the burdens her own mother carried.