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A poem by Jo Dixon

Old Market Square, Nottingham

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of reading with Jo Dixon at the Nottingham poetry festival.  There was a lively, enthusiastic, mostly young audience at the event and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Jo’s Melos press pamphlet, ‘A Woman in the Queue’ was published last year. It was great to hear Jo read, and I’ve asked her permission to share one of her poems here. As both a service user and an ex employee of the National Health Service, I have an interest in poems that deal with our experiences within it, which will often be among or most intense and extreme we will have to deal with, sometimes holding ourselves ‘together’ through the most emotionally trying times. Hospitals are the places where we or those we love are often at our most vulnerable; where fear, trust and faith often come together in strange and sometimes rarefied atmospheres with their own specialist language and ritual (the initials of the first poem bellow stand for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).  I  chose this poem –  finely controlled, precise, moving and instantly memorable because it manages the delicate balance required to convey something of this experience.

NICU

I

buzzed in at nine

through the porthole
a boy with wrinkle- sag
knees shelters his fingers
in the antiseptic furrows
of your cupped palm;
from your perch
on next door’s vacant
stool, you anticipate
back spasms

four hours later
litmus paper stutters
in your fingers – is pink
red?
and your milk tubes
down into his stomach

now a sodden slippery nappy sags
on the cannula impaled
in his gauzy vein; cotton
wool and titanium ointment
jumble around his legs

at bedtime
your lullaby keeps time
with his heart’s
beep

buzzed out at nine.

II  

It’s just in case.
A Polaroid, 2″ by 3 1\2 ” :
    tangles of tubes and white wires snake to a body frozen
    in the position of his foetal scan
    air pushes down the endotracheal tube and he breathes
    the right pattern.

Tuck him under your pillow.

A woman in the Queue is published by The Melos Press
and you can read a review of Jo Dixon’s pamphlet here.      

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