Poetry Live: Mother and child and mother times infinity

At Stephanie Arsoska’s most recent Virtual Open Mic Night we were tasked with reading a published poem and one of our own, without saying which was which. There was to be some link in theme or style between the poems, or you could even try to copy or emulate the published poem’s style. The others would listen and guess. I was rumbled straight off, of course, but I challenge you to listen to Sarah Miles read her two poems and pick which one is hers and which one is by a certain famous poet. Go on, have a go.

Meanwhile, here is what I read.


Ad infinitum

My joints click your click
My feet step your tread,
In my ring I hear yours ting
against your cup.
My toothbrush-tap is your spoon
playing a tune
on the rim of your mug.
“And now I tap!”
His toothbrush joins a line
that spans life, space and time.

Your irritations are now mine
I tell myself the self-same lies
Hiding behind the same disguise
So too I echo in his whine
Grating on both our nerves
As time rewinds, loops and curves.

Here I stand
And reprimand
Dizzy with a skewed
I see
versions of me
looking both up
and down at me.
You are in my words,
I speak you at my child,
and understand
where you stand
and stood.
The ought and should
now echo over years
and all the tears,
the fears, the growing pains
and vomit stains
on this point
where I stand
and understand
both child and mother
in my hand.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014


The published poem I chose is by one of my favourite, but relatively unknown poets here in the UK: Gwen Harwood. I can recommend both her poetry and her laugh-out-loud funny correspondence with her friend Tony Riddell from the days when she worked in a hilarious bureaucratic job in Brisbane, Australia, during the Second World War. These letters were published under the title Blessed CitySo, here she is:

In the Park

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt.
Someone she loved once passes by – too late

to feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice,” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon… “but for the grace of God…”

They stand awhile in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

(c) Gwen Harwood


Why not join in the next Virtual Open Mic Night? It will be on Wednesday 25th of June and it is going to be a Newbie Night! Why not give it a go? You know you want to. Keep an eye on Stephanie’s blog for further details nearer the time.

Linking to Prose for Thought.


More precious than gold

She fooled us. We boasted at 7 weeks that she was ‘such an easy baby’, that she slept through and would re-settle with a single “shhhh” from a parent. I guess she got bored of that nonsense and has since realised ‘easy babies’ don’t get as many midnight cuddles as wakeful ones. Besides the occasional 11pm to 5.30am just to keep us on our toes, the Baby continues to wake up at night. Sometimes once, sometime many times. Always at 3am – a magical time when all babies are programmed to wake screaming, I think. Whatever she does at night, the day starts at first light for her, when she is cheery and chirpy and ready to play. More often than not I sneak her downstairs at that time, hoping she hasn’t woken the Toddler yet, and try to persuade her to have another hour’s kip in my arms on the sofa.

What is more precious than gold, you ask? Is it Love? Is it World Peace? Is it Babies? No, dear reader. It is sleep.

Dawn Chorus

You do know
this is classed as torture
sleep wake sleep wake
shrill crying in your ear
the grey dawn
day after day
lying cramped and curledsleep
neck and back
holding you
precious you
as you snatch a little more
of that sleep
that I wanted
your lashes resting lightly
on your soft cheek.

I hope your dreams are gentle
and you feel warm
and loved.
Although I ache and
my brain feels dead and
the day is dull-
I guess
I do feel
warm safe and loved

My daughter,
I would suffer any torture
to spend this time with you.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Okay, so maybe it was love and babies after all. Leave me alone, I’m really tired.

Linking up to Prose for Thought.

Prose for Thought

A Change in Perspective

My patience is at zero today and I can’t cope with the Toddler’s exuberance (read: running around knocking things over, pulling all the books off the shelf, littering the floor with tiny sponge letters and a whole deck of cards) and seemingly boundless hunger (6am: Mummy, bread stick? 6.10: Mummy raisins? 6.20: Mummy banana? 7am: Mummy porridge? 7.15: Mummy more porridge? 8am: Mummy apple? and so on until at 10.30 he was consuming another whole bowl of Weetabix and asking for more). Even his affection was getting on my nerves, as he came and snuggled up next to me while I was trying to do work on my laptop, wanting hugs and cuddles. I may also have been on Twitter but that is entirely beside the point, of course.

Anyway, for Prose for Thought today I was planning to post an old poem that I wrote a year or so ago, but instead I found myself writing one about how frustrated I was feeling with my son. My poetry doesn’t usually rhyme, unless it is Sinterklaas, but it felt appropriate in this case.

A change in perspective

I love you, but you wind me up.
Your goals don’t mesh with mine.
When you want midnight cuddles,
I want a glass of wine.

When you want to watch a DVD
I want you to play.
And when you think you’re helping me
you’re getting in my way.

Your games involve a lot of mess
and take up all my time,
and when I want you to stay still
you want to jump and climb.

I have so little patience
and you have so much joy.
Life’s one big experiment
and everything’s a toy.

I keep telling you ‘be careful’,
‘don’t touch’ and ‘don’t go there’,
but isn’t it much better
to try things and go everywhere?

Better to get down on my knees
and see life through your eyes.
I may be a bit more sensible
but you are far more wise.

(c) Judith Kingston , 2013

As I was writing this, my son started playing and interacting with his baby sister, making her laugh, playing games with her, trying to attract her attention and amuse her. This is a new development. My poem is done and he is still playing with her.

I’m linking this with Prose for Thought.

Prose for Thought


A Poem about Milk

I have a lot of work on this week but still wanted to link up with Prose for Thought, so I am cheating a bit and posting a poem I wrote when the Toddler was but two weeks old. I have shared some of the trouble I had breastfeeding my daughter in the beginning, but breastfeeding my son was no walk in the park either. One of the many frustrating things about feeding him in the beginning was that he would seem to be about to latch on and then put his hands in his mouth instead, which is what this poem is about.


They say it won’t last forever
this fight between you and me
over where the milk comes from.
You say it’s your hands
I say it’s my breasts
and science is on my side.
Also, you’re only two weeks old
and know nothing of
well, anything, just yet.

But after I win this one
there will be more, I’m sure.
There will be: no, no, no shoes
i don’t want broccoli
please five more minutes
everyone’s wearing them.
These too will be easy to win
with “mum knows best”
and science and common sense.

In time, though, there will be other fights,
where you fight with my weapons,
you question my wisdom, my ethics,
my decisions and often, my sense.
I just hope by that time
I can lose graciously
and give you your due where it’s earned.

Until that time, look this way for milk
and put those hands away so I can feed you.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2010.

Prose for Thought

A day late: Prose for Thought

Yesterday was World Poetry Day. I thought I’d honour it by joining in with Victoria Welton’s lovely initiative, Prose for Thought, and posting a poem I wrote this week for my little girl.


You are asleep, and have been for hours
I have stolen some time away
exulting in a weekly shop at all-night Tesco
or a hot cup of tea at a friend’s.

Then I catch a hint of your scent on my clothes
milk and fabric softener
eczema cream
and just you.

what do I care about these moments of freedom?
in another hour I can hold you close
as you feed in your sleep
one small hand stretched up towards my face
and I’ll be wrapped in your smell and you in mine

(c) Judith Kingston

More poetry here.

Prose for Thought