Two poems by Carl Tomlinson

Birthright

I left you behind with your just-become Mum
in the screamy stewed air of the ward.

I walked through the white,
through the cold and the wet.
I stood by the side of the road.

Huddled, elated,
befuddled, completed,
I stopped a step longer
and looked out for danger,
felt your tiny curled hand on my shoulder.

Dupuytren’s: your hand in mine

For my Grandfather, Joseph Tomlinson, 1908-1986

The doctor sets my hand down and he says,
“That lump is Dupuytren’s,
a thickening of soft tissue
which can leave the finger bent.”

I’m back with Grandad on Tandle Hill.
Holding his hand, I look down on the farm,
see him swing that four-stone weight,
the one he used for spuds,
with only his little finger!

His hands – great mud-scored tubers –
wrestled pens to form his name
and cuffed me just the once
for scaring fish down at the cut
then lay milk-cold and udder-pink
across his empty chest.

Years later I learnt that the super-strong finger
was stiff with Dupuytren’s.
Today I feel that hand in mine.
and know we’re bound
not by the strength I thought I saw
not by the name he gave to me
but by shared frailty.

Carl Tomlinson lives with his wife on their Oxfordshire smallholding. They have two children at University. He is a businessman, linguist and writer. His poetry explores the intensity of our physical experience of the world and celebrates his love of words. Carl reads his work regularly at open-mic events and is a member of local writing groups

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