Glimpses, Part 1

‘Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.’ – Oscar Wilde

It is a clear, bright day, the sky blue with the slightest smattering of cirrus. There is a nip in the air. A blackbird flirts its song between the sparse-limbed trees, which loom like skeletons. I ponder the coming of Spring; the freshness of the breeze tousling my hair as I meander through woodland paths, smattered with bluebells and ‘a host of golden daffodils’.

I cradle my steaming coffee as I dawdle away time, revelling in the past. There is an old pile of photographs on the table, a cornucopia of memories; fleeting glimpses of moments in my life when I felt something more than I feel now. I let my fingers brush

across a face beaming out of the photograph I now hold. It was the last one I ever took of my husband, John. Tears well in my eyes. I am drowning in a memory so powerful that I feel I will choke on my heart.

I remember clearly. He was sitting on his bed in the hospital in Newcastle, awaiting a heart transplant. A handsome man with sparkling topaz eyes and an endearing smile. He was the bravest person I had ever known, and the pain he had physically endured was lesser than the pain of losing his son. But that day, I think he knew. Tears slipped down his cheeks, as his body shook from fear. I slipped my hand beneath his cold, wizened fingers, and gathered up my strength. Being given a new heart was both a promise and a question.

‘It’s a new start, darling,’ I said.

‘I know, but I am so scared,’ he stuttered.

One week later, people loitered, mingling, and eating stale vol au vents. We were reflecting on what a great guy my grandfather was. He had died, aged 92, a lonely man by choice. He hadn’t wanted a fancy funeral, but you cannot say goodbye with a full stop at the end of an empty sentence. I had always been the dependable one. A bit eccentric, but reliable. Everything had been organised down to a tee, with the voice of his beloved Vera Lynne waving him off into the cremation fires. I heard the shrill tone of my mobile phone.

‘Hello?’

‘Mrs Drury? It’s the ward sister from the Freeman hospital. I’m afraid you need to come quickly. John had a haemorrhage and is really very poorly.’

I was in Hull, a four-hour train journey from my husband’s hospital in Newcastle. I had to hastily make my apologies, leave the funeral, and rush to the station. I was praying it wasn’t too late. We needed a miracle. John had cheated death so many times.

The train journey seemed infinite. Each clackety-clack of the wheels on the endless track marked off the seconds of his existence. The nearer I got to Newcastle, the further away it seemed.

When I walked into the ICU, a cacophony of bleeping machines was keeping my husband alive. He looked like a sleeping cadaver, white, motionless, and punctured with needles and tubes. His flesh was a canvas of blue, green, and purple. I knew he was a ghost, no longer here. A lone nurse gazed at me, with sorrow. I felt his empathy.

‘Are you ready, Mrs Drury?’ he whispered, gently.

‘Yes,’ I choked. I sat beside John, cherishing this last moment together. Love was infused in memories playing in my mind. The nurse flicked the switch, and my husband’s heart stopped. The silence was the loudest sound I had ever heard.

You

I missed you this weekend. I missed the feel of your pasty, doughy body curled up beside me on the crumpled sheets. Wetness between my legs, deluded dreams in my hoodwinked head. You, my inebriated trainwreck, breathing asthmatic whisky fumes, and stealing my innocence. My red lips had bled onto your cheek, seeking words, seeking I love you. But I don’t think you did.

I only wanted to see what was on the disc. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but when your father was a cheat, all men are manipulators. I am not a misandrist, but I know you have parked your car in many places. You disappeared, flew off to Dublin, left my bed cold and barren. Carelessly left this disc lying around, next to the single dirty plate beside the empty spirits glass, and the tear-stained tissue.

I didn’t know what to say, really. My tongue had cleaved to the roof of my mouth, and I felt nauseous. I don’t know why I was surprised. Fidelity was never your strongest virtue. A naked woman screamed out at me through the computer screen, poised like a seedy hooker, flesh spilling out from lacy bras and French knickers. I couldn’t hear her voice, but she was American, you said, and the silence of her dissonance screamed at me.

I am not inhibited or prudish, but I don’t want to feast my eyes on another woman’s genitals, I am not sleeping with the enemy. “Perfect pussy’ you said, and you may as well have shot arsenic arrows into my heart. You didn’t know the meaning of pain, as you never did hurt. You just went on collecting broken hearts in jars, and notches on the headboard above your bed. I still loved you.

Skin at 1 a.m.

I have a teenager, he is 15 nearly. My husband (his dad) died when my son was 3 1/2, and I was there while they turned off the life support. It hit me hard and left me a bit neurotic. Every night, when my son is sleeping, I have to check that he is still alive. It is a deep fear of losing him. I wrote a poem…

Skin at 1 a.m.

Won’t be long now. Soon
you will be too big to be
holding hands with me.
I see beyond the tree

outside the window. 
The sky, infinite – must be 
a new moon as the stars
muse at the aloneness. 

I check you are breathing. 
Brush fingers onto your 
cheek. You wince and 
I know you are sleeping.

It is a strange fixation, 
fearing death in life. I 
feel your palm is hot and
your blood is warm and

you breathe. I am in 
my sanctuary, the rhythms 
of your chest rising
and falling, bringing me 

peace. 




©2022 Sarah Drury, all rights reserved

Spurn Point

Spurn Point is an ever-evolving tidal island, the Land’s End of Yorkshire, its iconic peninsula curving between the North Sea and the Humber Estuary. It stretches for three miles, this oasis of sand, shingle and clay, washed down the coastline from Flamborough Head. It is easy to become one with its isolated beauty whilst meandering along windswept paths, the sea air lodging in your lungs and the dew of an early morning settled like peridots over the wild terrain.

The 1895 lighthouse punctuating the terrain, with its black and white stripes, is a bold statement of its time in a place where ships could fall victim to the hazards of the sea. It is a necessary man-made intrusion in a place where humanity has relinquished control to the petulant tides. Originally lit by oil, in 1941 – during the second world war – the lighthouse was converted to electricity. This allowed the beam to blaze briefly for the benefit of the allied ships and convoys before falling again into a blanket of darkness, refusing to betray the lives of the sailors.

The coastal artillery batteries, erected during the First World War, are still visible – great, concrete structures which once housed quick-firing guns as the fighting raged and the enemies attacked our shores and seas. Great, grey monuments – a testament to the courage and bravery of our ancestors.

I had been born in Hull in the late 1960s, and as a child, had explored the length and breadth of the East Yorkshire coast with my grandfather. It is a fine region, steeped in history, with a rich shipping culture going back many centuries. There was the brutal whaling trade which saw many lives lost. The undauntable fishermen brought in their hauls to the docks near my grandfather’s house, risking their lives for the fresh Friday haddock on our tables. I had merrily sailed on the Yorkshire Belle alongside Flamborough Head, jigging along to the ‘pirate’ fiddler’s cheery sea shanties; hauled my contesting lungs up the steep inclines of Robin Hood’s Bay; gazed at the scarlet-cheeked glass blower as he formed the sticky mass into a Whitby ‘Lucky Duck’; shrieked in giddiness as the surf of the incoming tide fizzed over my sand-kissed toes in Withernsea; slid and stumbled over the slimy rocks at Paull, searching the pool for reticent sea creatures, stirring as I swirled the water.

But I had never been to Spurn Point.

Way back before the birth of my child, we were reckless and free, caught in the vision of our rosy-lensed love. Twice a week you would cruise over to Scunthorpe in your Vauxhall and whisk me away on a romantic adventure. You were a keen fisherman, and this day your car was brimming with rods and fly hooks, maggots, and bait. We made the long drive over to Spurn Point, through the meandering back roads and across the Humber Bridge, observing the flamenco light catching the crests of miniature waves.

The island was accessible by car, at low tide and we drove over the grassy tracks, parking up a short stroll from the lighthouse. The fishing gear was heavy and the ground shifted under our sturdy, leather hiking boots as we marched our way towards the grassy bank. You sailed down the incline, like a well-oiled machine, whereas I approached – tentative, fearful, doubting. As soon as I placed my boot on the bank, I lurched forward, like an astronaut hurtling into the cosmos. I slid down ten feet, jostled by dusty rocks and clumps of grass!

The shore was stony muesli: shingle, in shades of grey, beige, and brown. My ears crackled with the arid sound of crunching soles, as the tang of salty moisture settled on my tongue. Sizable cargo ships speckled the hazy horizon, breaking up the dull monotony of this featureless shoreline. You already had your hands deep into the tub of maggots. They had a distinctive, meaty odour that churned my stomach into last night’s dinner. You had the stalwart patience that I lacked, insisting on silence. The sea surged with its age-old lungs, and the circling gulls’ cries splintered the moment of tranquillity between us.

There was a flurry of excitement. Your eyes flashed – steel knives in their now-cavernous orbits. Your arms lurched towards the hungry surge of the sea, as you yelled ‘I have a bite!’ Your frantic hands span the reel, as a creature thrashed around on the surface, reluctant to be hauled out of its watery home and into a vicious death. I had empathy for these creatures. Eating a plaice, in a Michelin-starred restaurant, is detached from the moment of the creature’s demise. But you stated, coolly, ‘That is the circle of life.’

We gazed at the expanse of the sea – the sanctuary of life, yet also the harbinger of death. How many sailors had succumbed to the waves? How many lovers had stood at the shore, waiting for their hearts to return? How many enemy bombs had fallen into the water around Spurn Point?

We embraced – lips crushed together in defiance of the cruel ocean. It was an act of mercy, the last time you ever saw the sea. This year we will scatter your ashes and you will be reunited with the place you loved above all else – the sea.

©2021 Sarah Drury

Don’t Say

My son is autistic, and now he is a teen, he is battling all sorts of demons. I wrote this poem to express how I feel as a mother.

Don’t say my child is slow.
Don’t say he will be pushing trollies around
Tesco car park, because he has big dreams,
Don’t say he won’t work -
will be milking the system and scrimping on benefits,
while his confidence wanes.
Don’t say he will be sitting with some bitch-faced PIP woman
ticking boxes ‘cos he can lift his arms above his head 
and stumble 100 metres on the parapets,
Don’t say he is not disabled ‘cos he can spell 
High-functioning Autism, and read 
the precautions on his night-time melatonin.
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Don’t say my child doesn’t care,
that he lives inside some insulated igloo, that 
strange boy who doesn’t kiss his mamma, and retracts like
a snail into his shell at the slightest touch,
Don’t say, when he drags me across the high street
to pull my last pennies from my purse for 
the homeless man who has no legs, just a crutch,
that he has no empathy - when he says 
if he won the lottery he would
put a roof over the street sleepers and make sure
their stomachs were happy.
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Don’t say, ‘Have you seen Punch and Judy, where
you are Punch and your mum is Judy?’, 
‘cos he used to thrash with his fists and I 
was the pad taking the hit and 
turning the crimson canvas into rose pink.
Teacher, who the hell do you think you are?!
Don’t say that he is spoilt because he would smash up
toys and hurl chairs at walls and make holes in
plaster and scream,
and scream,
AND SCREAM – 

because he was 9 in his head, but 18 months in his heart, and
the psychologists with their fancy words
sent reward charts and hugging pillows and resistance bands,
and false hopes and shallow dreams, in educated hands
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Don’t say that he should be walking to the shop,
that he’s nearly 15 and a big, tall tower. 
That I wrap him up in cotton wool when he should
be free, like a windswept wildflower,
and he calls me a helicopter parent but 
he knows no danger and 
is not wary of strangers and 
the gangs would have him, and there are 
hidden knives and luring drug dealers,
and I feel the fear – that 
his vulnerability will be a smear on his
safety - that one day 
he might not make it home. 
Don’t say he should look you in the eyes,
that he should say thank you to the bus driver in
a confident voice,
when he shrinks if anyone speaks to his face
and mumbles to the floor if questions take the place
of his introverted haze.
When he didn’t talk properly until he was eight,
that his throat swallows his words like smashed glass bottles
and his mind hangs on to the fragments of hate. 
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Say how he shines when he feels loved,
Say how he speaks with eloquence when he’s telling you
about his fans, air volumes, velocity, diameters,
Say how he writes stories with vivid imagery,
how he crafts words and weaves plots,
Say how he rolls his eyes and shrugs when the other kids
are being kids and he is not,
Say how his mother loves him and has fought like a valiant warrior,
Say how Autism is not a barrier. 
Say he CAN do this.
Say he CAN do this.
Say he CAN do this.

Don’t say my child is less. 
Don’t say.
Don’t…

©2022 Sarah Drury