Searing honesty with heart warming humour giving an insight into living with MS.
Ann Grant’s ‘ Confessions to a neurologist’ is the IS&T Pick of the Month for June 2023.
Those who had MS or had seen its devastations on their family and friends could relate. For others it gave real insight into the condition. And it was done with honesty with humour and with heart, making it a worthy winner.
Ann Grant is a Cumbria based poet and workshop facilitator living with multiple sclerosis. Her poems have featured on albums byClutter and Some Some Unicorn. She hosts Verbalise at Brewery Arts in Kendal. @annthepoet
She has asked that her £20 ‘prize’ be donated to the MS Society.
Confessions to a neurologist
When it started, I’d tip my chin down to my chest,
loving the sensation of my body buzzing.
I’d wake, fall to the wall, panic crawl to the loo,
ask my wife if my palms were really burning hot
I choke on nothing but pretend that it’s something.
Take a day to recover from a few hours out.
The spasms can make me vomit and piss myself.
In all other respects I never multi-task.
I avoid terms like spastic, disease and chronic,
put on a front, joke that my life is MS-ey.
Speed bumps on my spine misfire signals from my brain,
makes me think of my old battered Renault 19.
Life has improved now I’m estranged from my mother.
The oil spill on the road when the wheel fell right off.
I miss running now I’m not allowed to do it.
I lift weights to improve my veins, I’m also vain.
The pain is not enough to take those ugly drugs
I know my brain is shrinking so I’m reading more.
I eat fudge because I lack fat around my nerves.
It seems to help me think and move, miracle sweet.
I keep tally of infusions and nurses laugh.
Each sacred cannulation, drug bag, drip, gives life.
Yes, I am fine, I’d kiss you but that’s frowned upon.
Other voters’ comments included:
I like its light touch on a heavy subject, it conveyed a real sense of character, strengthening the reader’s empathy
My sister has had MS and I could absolutely relate to this poem.
It’s so real – love the detail – the hair in the diary and the glee at the mothers rage – relatable!
A moving poem about disability and chronic illness. It is witty and humourous.
Beautifully confessional, devastatingly true.
A wonderfully written poem about MS which I feel could help thousands of people and maybe make them feel less alone.
Moved me, but moments of grit wrapped in humour.
Honest and raw but full of heart and humour
It’s such a brave, humorous, honest poem. Doesn’t try too hard – just tells it like it is.
Such an honest/funny/ portrayal of life through an MS lens
Honest dealing with medical world and humour
Honest, warm, funny, relatable 😊
Shows the full sentiment and feelings of living with MS. Beautiful expression and diction showed.
Human, honest, thought provoking, well written, funny while medically serious.
I feel her pain!
It combines so many elements. It presents real facts about living with MS. It’s gritty, honest, very witty, moving and insightful
Because it helps me understand some of what Ann and other’s who have MS are having to cope with.
This poem is touching, funny, warm and tragic. I loved it.
I have ms too and it rings home and hits a nerve or 3
THE REST OF THE JUNE 2023 SHORTLIST
Our house was a country my parents founded but none of us
were citizens. Nights, the corridor’s iron gate was a border,
locking us in our rooms. My mother was both state and warden.
I wrapped a hair around my diary before leaving for school,
each afternoon found it broken. Inside I wrote if you can read this
I hate you, and felt glee to see her eyes hold back the rage.
After my father bought a red Camaro and started his string
of work trips, my mother lay bare on the balcony to catch
the sun. Her pubic hair a briar patch startling the neighbours
and my brother’s friends in the grimy capital of our kitchen.
Indifferent as any god, my father
occasionally brought about a miracle, a new television
or a bag of sweets. Once I called him by his name
and he struck me to the floor. A Glock slung on his belt,
at mealtimes he lay the black hole of its barrel next to the calamari.
To divorce was to secede, forbidden territory.
I’m staying for you— for the children was their gospel.
The winter she thought dad had tapped the phone,
we laughed until I tuned into my mother’s call on my radio.
That night she took a knife to god, and we fled
into the dark, but the state later denied this ever happened.
Vasiliki Albedo‘s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry London, Oxford Poetry and elsewhere. She won the Poetry Society’s 2022 stanza competition, was a finalist in Frontier’s Global Poetry Prize and her tiny chapbook Arcadia won Poetry International’s competition.
At Home with Long John Silver
My mother told me
to never suffer fools.
“Never suffer fools” she’d say
and she hit me round the head.
I had an intolerable
migraine that stopped me
getting out of bed.
“Never suffer fools” she said.
She’d look them in the eyes
and she’d tell them “You’re a idiot”
Just like that, she’d look them
in the face – she wasn’t messing.
My friends came and she
told them they were idiots too,
though they were all
at grammar school.
She’d keep telling them
how much she loved me.
She’d run her fingers
through my loveable mop.
She’d tell anyone listening
I had a good brain on me.
She’d also been given
to wearing a pirate hat.
Philip Foster is a founder member of The Albert Poets in Huddersfield. His first book was Goose Jazz and most recently,The Book of Occupational Hazard was published by Calder Valley Poets.
My father is calling the neighbours names
Out on the grass
my father is calling the neighbours names.
It is his art.
Softly, he starts to mourn.
The sky’s a mild suburban blue,
each lawn so circumspect
it’s like a stamp,
but he is being moved
by something subterranean.
Come see: my father is unravelling.
His face is working loose.
Drink has smoothed out his consonants
until his voice is like an oracle,
but in reverse:
a wheel revving through mud,
his curse just so much effluent.
Cruel, to be made to think
that this is speech;
that it is something like a hammer
in his weakly quibbling hand.
Alan Humm is the editor of One Hand Clapping magazine. His first collection, A Brief and Biased History of Love, will be published in September and his first novel, The Sparkler, will be published in spring of 2023.
We didn’t say it coming. Preoccupied
By interchangeable analogies (the jasmine
Blossom burdening the Avenues, plus several other factors)
We walked to the library, anxiously
Equipped. The afternoon
Swung on its tender, foreseeable hinge.
Commercial JASMINALDEHYDE is not extracted
From the living plant, but HEPTAN-1-OL.
Reacted with BENZALDEHYDE in the presence
Of basic catalysts, it is (like other
Aldehydes) subject to self-condensing.
[For contamination, flush eyes immediately.]
Were it not for the savings (planetary, financial)
Afforded by such non-euclidean vestibules, revolving
Doors would never be tolerated. Progress is
Vexatiously non-linear. Sooner or later one must take
A crack at it, or be
Derivatives are specious consolations,
Technicalities at which
I have been lately chafing, for example:
How to do what needs. How not to harm you.
We sat and talked an hour in anecdote, the summer term
Conclusively about us. Eudemus says: ‘The same
Has many senses’ – an odour as of lately written
Utterance, a fraught white yes of bloom.
VJ René is a poet and PhD student at the University of East Anglia. They are the author of two pamphlets, Scavengers (2021) and HYDRA (2010). Recent work has been published by Propel, Datableed and BODY. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter @byvjrene.
O little sister. little lark. little mischief
never to be found out.
How your broad smile is a quartered melon
and answers drip from my chin.
O little mirror. little wheel. little carriage
into the universe next door.
How we ride side-by-side and yet
not facing eye-to-eye, still speak in tandem.
O little riddle. little nudge. little double;
we bud, we flower in synchrony.
How I picture you and you invent me
in all our imaginary to and fro.
Julia Stothard lives in Shepperton and works at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her poems have appeared in various publications includingInk Sweat & Tears, Atrium, Orbis and the competition anthologies for Dempsey & Windle and Ver Poetry.