Poem for November

One, Two

by Kate Clanchy

The camera has caught me
in a church doorway, stooping
to fasten what must be

my old cork-soled sandals,
their thick suede straps,
that dry, worn grip at heel

and instep. I’m smiling
downwards, pinkly
self-conscious, and above me

the arch is an extraordinary
blue. New — the whole place
was just lime-washed, azure

and sapphire rough-brushed
over moss. It stood in the moist heat
at a confluence of rivers —

I’ve even noted their names,
and the date, which says you, love,
are perhaps ten cells old.

In the humid space beneath
my dress, my body is bent
in the small effort of buckling,

the sag of my stomach briefly
leant on my thigh,
and, at the crux, in the press

of my nerveless places, you
are putting me on, easily,
the way a foot puts on a shoe.

After the desolation of last months ‘Rooms’ by Charlotte Mew here is something more cheerful, a ‘photograph poem’ that captures the tenderness and wonder of becoming a mother. Kate Clanchy is a Scottish poet, journalist and teacher who now lives and works in Oxford. This poem is taken from her collection ‘Newborn’ (published by Picador) that was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2004.                Poem and words contributed by David Underdown.