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Corridors & Wards by Richard Skinner

1. The Island of Doubt

What are these? Toothpicks or cocktail sticks? They are so fiddly. Why are they so

difficult to pick up? What are those sounds on the roof? Birds? Are we near the sea?

Who is that in the photograph? No, it’s not me. I never had my hair like that. Why

are your feet blue? Oh, they’re shoes? I have no feeling in my feet. If I fall, how will

you pick me up? Oh, it’s pathetic, isn’t it? Will someone please answer that phone? Is

this medicine? How is your mother? How did she look? Like you do right now. No,

I’m not tired. I lay awake all night. Can I get there by candlelight? Yes, and back

again. Oh I have been to Ludlow fair and left my necklace God knows where. Are

there still cedars in Lebanon? Are there gales in Lundy? Are they drowning the

meadows? Am I standing in a stream? I can hear water. I am water gifted. I

remember the dropped glass in the stream. The silence was full of birds. Wherever I

am, I am what’s missing. Whatever’s missing is where love has gone. Which of these

voices is mine? Few. But roses.

2. The Egg

I am holding an egg

in my hand.

One of life’s joys.

So perfect in shape.

So simple, yet complex.

But, of course,

I’m not really talking

about an egg.

I’m really talking

about my mother.

The egg is just a portal,

a vehicle merely to talk

about my mother.

Not one of life’s joys.

Not simple, but still complex.

What’s a poem for?

To unlock the secrets

of the universe.

To release the potential

of inanimate objects,

like eggs and mothers,

which are both part

of the same big question,

which I can and can’t talk about

in a poem.

3. Rooms

I am moving through the rooms.

Someone has turned me inside out and now

all my bad decisions are on show.

This juice is good but the beaker is too big.

This machine looks just like the sun.

1… 2… 3… 4…

My arms are electronic.

Twice I fought with the devil last night.

There is ash on my forehead.

The view from this room is nice—

a garden of reflection. Hills.

4. My mother’s things

i.m. Diana Malcolm Cartland, née Greig, 1941-2019

Four Dior Addict 754 lipsticks

(Vibrant colour! Spectacular shine!).

Rolex Depose # Yoke/Sc x1.

A tape measure, pins & needles.

Three Radley purses (empty).

Photos in sepia of her Uncle ‘Jimmy’ Leggat

(a ne’er-do-well from Airdrie),

her mother Jan on her wedding day

& her father Alec in Captain’s uniform in Cairo.

A yellow yo-yo.


Richard Skinner’s poetry first appeared in the Faber anthology First Pressings (1998)

and since then in anthologies for William Blake, John Berger, CALM and Médicines

Sans Frontières. His most recent book of poems is The Malvern Aviator (Smokestack,

2018). “Corridors & Wards” is taken from his forthcoming pamphlet, Invisible Sun,

which will be published by Smokestack in February 2021.


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