‘Before Her Diagnosis’ by Marie Naughton

Before Her Diagnosis

you didn’t know it,
but you felt like that smug bastard,
the biblical one who built the house
on solid ground. Or that other,
the bridegroom, blessed with the helpmeet
who kept the lamp topped up with oil.
You didn’t know it was possible
to build a house in an hourglass,
let alone pitch a tent in such a dodgy spot.
Yet here you are, stranded in a wilderness,
like ‘I’m A Celebrity’, minus celebrities,
minus the get-out clause,
prey to all beasts that roam the earth.
Some days, you ache
to voice the grinding in your bowels.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?
Some days are better,
when you crawl through the flaps
to blue sky. Dew quivers
on every blade of grass. Moments,
till you clock that today the tent’s at Longleat,
but the BBC are filming ‘Animal Park’
in a distant corner with Ben Fogle,
buying you time to sneak the kids to school
before the big cats cotton on you’re there.
Some days are better,
when you feel like Noah
surveying the beasts, quiet in their pens
for now. Flat sea, blue sky overhead.
You think – today that bird might show up,
twig in beak, from Ararat
. Moments,
like when you didn’t know
about tsunamis, not even the word
to look up in a dictionary.
(Commended in Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition, 2012)
Marie Naughton won the 2012 Cafe Writers poetry competition. She was a runner-up in Mslexia‘s poetry competition in 2009 and received a commendation for her version of one of Zbigniew Herbert’s poems in Modern Poetry in Translation’s competition in 2012. Another of her poems features in the current edition of The Dark Horse. She is halfway through an MA in creative writing at the Centre for New Writing at Manchester University.