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‘Phone Call Home from my Daughter in Chiscani, Christmas Eve 2018’

Why I want to write about the pig’s head hanging from a branch

                  in the yard,

the cat that was beaten for killing a bird, the man who one night lay down

on the track, or the dog you found frozen to death in the snow,

                  I don’t know.

Perhaps it’s because of our paths: me here by the fire with a glass of Benedictine,

my book on Stoics, flickering icicle lights on the tree, and you

                  over there.

Or maybe it’s because of Marcus Aurelius’s advice on dealing with darkness:

                  run straight for the finish line, unswerving.

Maggie Sawkins lives in Portsmouth where she delivers writing projects in community and health care settings. She has won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for Zones of Avoidance. A new pamphlet, Many Skies Have Fallen, is published by Wild Mouse Press.

“The first assignment in Tania Hershman’s Short Short Poem was to write a poem of exactly ten lines about something small. Last summer my daughter went to live in rural Romania so she could be with her partner who’d been deported from the UK. She phones regularly with florid descriptions of life over there and I jot down the gist of our conversations. My daughter developed schizophrenia in her twenties and at times she is like a walking poem. Distilling the essence of my notes in such a way as to capture a nub of truth has always been a challenge. Another challenge is to move away from the purely descriptive, the confessional, towards something more universal. I think paring away at the words helps to achieve this.”

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