Sunday Poem – Pauline Yarwood

This week I almost decided to write another blog post half way through the week so that this one would not be as long, but I didn’t.  Now, starting this at 8.30pm on Sunday night, I’m regretting my earlier tardiness.  Plus the X factor is on which is a little distracting – I like the audition stage when everyone is still quite raw and quirky, before they get manicured and prepped to within an inch of their lives.  Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted my weakness for the X factor – what about if I promise to never mention the X factor within these pages again?

So this week I’ve been in Penrith on Monday and Tuesday for two teacher training or Inset days.  It’s nice to see the other music service staff – because we are so spread out around the country we don’t get to see each other very much, but I’m sure I’m speaking for EVERYONE when I say by the time the end of Tuesday came we had all had enough of each other and were ready to go home…

On Monday I went with my twin sister Jody to Ulverston and we had something to eat and then had a cup of tea in Natterjacks which is this lovely late night cafe – who knew that Ulverston had such a thing?  We were killing a bit of time between the end of Inset and our South Lakes Brass Ensemble rehearsal in Penny Bridge.  In the cafe there is artwork for sale and some of the tables and chairs are even for sale and they have books and magazines and board games.  Jody found a pack of cards and bullied me into playing this card game which I don’t think I’ve played since I was 15 – and I’d completely and utterly forgotten about it – although forgotten implies that it was there and I just wasn’t thinking about it – but it was like this card game had been erased from my brain, but as soon as we started playing I did remember it – we used to play it ALL THE TIME – for hours and hours on end.  I can’t even remember the name of it now.  I’m looking over at the husband who is innocently listening to his audio book with his headphones in whilst the adverts are on and decide I will bully him into playing it with me too before the night is over.  I’ve just asked him and apparently he has packed them away!  For those of you that have missed the moving saga – we were meant to move house a week it is vaguely meant to be happening on the 15th but I’m not holding my breath.

On Wednesday the school term officially starts but only one of my schools wanted me in so I did 2 hours of teaching in the afternoon and then did a 5 mile run in the evening with Walney Wind Cheetahs.  I spent most of Wednesday trying to sort out my powerpoints for work – they are in a complete mess due to my habit of losing and then finding my pen drives which they are stored on.

And then it was Thursday and Friday which are officially now my Poetry days with a capital P.  This Thursday I did some work preparing for my stint as Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival.  I only managed to plan one workshop however – I don’t quite know now what I was doing for the rest of the day – apart from walking the dogs and eating of course.  Anyway, the workshop that is planned and organised can be found here but a couple of days ago when I checked there were only two places left on it so you will have to move quick.

I’m doing lots of other stuff at the festival but I think that needs another blog post.  So Thursday consisted of running in the morning – another five miles, planning workshop, eating lunch, walking dogs and then I went to Ulverston Library and played the Last Post to start off another commemoration to World War 1.

On Friday morning I planned my Young Writers workshop, paid the largest amount of money I’ve ever paid to the solicitors and then went to Kendal to run the young writers group.  We did quite a complicated extended exercise and halfway through I started to think that it was too difficult – but to their credit, the girls persevered and wrote some exceptional stuff – so that made it worth getting out of bed.  Then it was straight back for another quintet practice to really make sure we’re ready for this wedding fayre next weekend!

On Saturday I did park run again and beat my PB by three seconds (hurrah!) in the world of running this is considered good and I did start off thinking I was just going to take it easy but then changed my mind after the first kilometre.  I got back and for some reason thought I was due to be at the bandstand in the park playing with the Barrow Steelworks Band and after having a shower, sat on the doorstep for twenty minutes waiting to be picked up before ringing and finding out it wasn’t until Sunday…what a muppet I am.  I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon sorting through some free band music I’d been given, putting it in bags, a bag for my sister for her junior band, a bag with music suitable for my beginner band, a bag with music suitable for Barrow Shipyard Band and then a bag of music suitable for nobody in this century.  The husband rang to tell me he was two hours drive away – he’d been cycling with a friend, and I decided it would be a great idea to walk out of Barrow and meet him at the car park at Roanhead beach.  It was a beautiful walk even though it was a bit windy, I could see for miles along the beach, and I felt very lucky to be living where I live. But maybe two hours of walking after sprinting three miles was a little excessive.

Which brings us to today which has been full as well – I went for a run this morning with the Walney Wind Cheetahs and we had the most amazing weather – lovely sunshine but enough wind to make it not too hot.  We ran 6 miles with lots of hills and I definitely felt the two hours walking and the park run were still sitting heavy in my legs but I really enjoyed the run.  And today was the concert at the park that I was meant to be doing with the Barrow Steelworks band so again I sat on the doorstep and this time, did get picked up and taken to the park.

Thank you all for reading this far – I often think if you get this far through this meandering waffle then you deserve a medal, but I don’t have one, but you can have a poem instead!  This time courtesy of Pauline Yarwood, a lovely lady I first met – I don’t know when we first met.  It could have been in a workshop at the Wordsworth Trust, or maybe it was at one of the Tuesday readings in Grasmere which Pauline regularly attends.  It might have been at Brewery Poets, a monthly writing group that Pauline attends and organises along with another poet, Trish Pogson.  Anyway the point is, I can’t remember – it feels like I’ve always known Pauline, since I first started writing.  Maybe she will remember!

So I know Pauline’s work quite well – I’ve read her poems at Brewery Poets – I’ve seen how hard she works at her poetry, how she takes and responds to suggestions.  I’ve also seen the deep interest and enthusiasm she has for poetry, demonstrated by her loyal attendance at various poetry readings all over the place and her commitment to the writing group.  I’ve also seen in the last couple of months how her confidence has finally started to grow in line with the quality of her poetry!  Pauline has had work recently published in The Firecrane, The Interpreter’s House and The North.  Pauline taught English and Ceramics and now has her own workshop in the Lyth Valley where she makes pots and writes poetry.

I asked Pauline to send me five or six poems to choose from and all the poems she sent were great so I could have picked any of them, but I think this poem is really touching.  I think Pauline has captured the sense of desperation and guilt which is felt in these situations with the repeated aside of ‘you can’t keep him in this room’ and the lack of punctuation means that the poem passes easily between the opinion of the ‘I’ in the poem ‘you can’t keep him in this room’ to the bare and painful stated facts ‘there are women pissing themselves’.  With no punctuation the poem swivels between fact and opinion so that we are left unsure as to which is which.  Even with all of the awful details ‘neither of us remembers how to speak’ the poem has a black humour about it ‘the woman on the desk looks/as if she’d pimp her own mother’.

I think this poem is special as well because of how authentic it is – the dialogue when the father tells David to sit down – that is kind of heart breaking.  More heartbreaking in a way than the end – my nan used to say the same thing to an old lady in her care home.  And there was an old man in that care home who used to forget he couldn’t walk and he would make his way down the corridor holding on the rail as he went – up and down, up and down the corridor.

I hope you enjoy the poem.  ‘Aftercare’ was previously published in the new issue of The North which has lots of wonderful poets in all the time and which you should definitely subscribe to.


Aftercare – Pauline Yarwood

you can’t keep him in this room
there are women pissing themselves
sitting legs agape
stockings rolled to their ankles
the one on the mattress on the floor
has been moaning for two hours

the woman on the desk looks
as though she’d pimp her own mother
turns her back on everyone
smooths the skirt of her uniform

you can’t keep him in this room

I push his wheelchair round an
unkempt quadrangle of garden
neither of us remembers how to speak

the ridiculousness of me pushing him

tears meet saliva at the corner of his drooping lip

back inside someone has forgotten they can’t walk
pushes up to standing
starts to head off

sit down, David, my father shouts.
David sits.

you can’t stay in this room

I’ll do whatever they advise, he says

odd, because you could never tell him anything
he could never tell me anything either

next day, pimp-woman grips the curtain round the bed

just before you see him, she says,
busy morning, not had time,
just telling you,
his mouth is still open.

1 comment on “Sunday Poem – Pauline Yarwood

  1. here’s like that speaks to like. My mum was in a nursing home for 15 years till she died aged 95. I’ve written about this a lot, but never with the open-eyed angry indignant distressof this poem. ‘Moaning’. Yes. The default white noise of care for the elderly infirm.

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