Beth McDonough – three poems

The Blotting Paper Woman IX

In which she gives medical assistance, and recognises her affinity with a nurse of page and screen.

She drives her husband to the Doctor’s
on the other side of town to sit and baulk
at needless, bad stained glass
which casts light on the waiting room, thinned
with peely-wally people.
All baseball capped and track
suits, they don’t appear to exercise
other than their nimble texting thumbs.

Her husband returns, supported by a lad
(perhaps the doctor’s twelve year old )
who sends them straight to A&E.

On the way they pass the Vet’s. The Blotting Paper
Woman wants to stop, and can explain exactly why – it’s

a far better designed building, devoid of parking issues. He will be seen by a team of highly qualified medics who will ask their questions only once. Process the answers. Do whatever must be done. Immediately. It’s cleaner too, with a better smell and the other patients are so more appealing. Less complaining. While human waiting rooms are now all Readers’ Digest free and so there’s no enhancing of the word powers…the kindly Vets provide sheaf upon sheaf of glossy publications, full of finely coloured diagrams of fetching parasites in cows.

Drive on, he growls. He thinks they’ll put him down.

Six hours on, still seated, airless in the plaster room,
he knows his huge mistake. He’s taught everybody there.
They’ve pulled his knee, they’ve taken out
some viscous stuff, which looks like playgroup orange squash. They
want to keep him in. Possibly an operation, certainly for observation
and for rest. Rest? That seems unlikely.

He dozes off on the wheelie couch, while she learns so much
about the Nurses’ last night out, and how they need to cut
and paste notes for their annual appraisal. Their Superannuation.
Luckily, The Woman has befriended the demonstration skeleton.
Despite his dearth of conversation, he has such a lovely set of teeth, and she is minded
to ignore the sellotaped repair now grubby on his skull. A few hours on
she waves her fleshless friend goodbye.

At Visiting Time the Woman returns wardwards
with her son who whoops a lot. She tries to steer him
past places posted Cardiology, really, really fast.

She brings a bagful of overnight provisions
for her man, and a copy of
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as he’s little left to read.

Out of her depth

In a menace of goggles and a too tight
cap, one woman strides to her first
Deep Water Aerobics Class. She breathes
in big attitude, puffs out chlorine, looks
for weights and floats, sees none. In she plops

bumps her knees, to find herself ensconced
in waft-alofts of blue-rinsed hair. FAME!
Five minutes strapped in the spotty-dog
dance, the clap of the FAME, she knows.
She’s become the woman she bubble snicker mocks
from lanes. FAME! Six steps to the right, three
claps overhead, and she tries to forget
the infinite corn-plaster churn.


Those fissured rocks have gone.
Ton on ton of gold imported sand
is burnished into the crevices where shell-
nailed boys once poised
to prise great mussels. Landed, knifed,

open nacre lids gave up
their waste of flesh, scooped
for bait and hopes of tiny beads.

Rounds of regular factory pearls fill
up shops now strung along the front.

Over even sands, without boys
to feed them bread, forgetful fish
reflect whatever lies below.

Beth McDonough first trained as a Silversmith at Glasgow School of Art. She is published in various places including New Writing Dundee, Poetry Bus, Under the Radar, Interpreter’s House and Gutter. She finds poems whilst swimming in the Tay, and foraging nearby. Many of her poems centre on a maternal experience of disability, and she enjoys riddling with Anglo-Saxons. She is currently Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts.


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