About the poet
Stephanie Norgate was born in 1957 and grew up in Selborne, Hampshire. She spent part of her...
'A perfect example of a paralysed larynx'
In the waiting-room we'd stared
for hours at the umbrella pine
in a painting someone had put there
to help us wait. The sky leaked
over the moor, the moor leaked its heather
over the frame, the purple light leaked
into the wall from the open field
while your ballooning arm
leaked into the chair.
The consultant's voice was clean
and quick. 'May I take your photograph?'
His students, busy cartographers,
gathered up their implements,
torches, lenses, clipboards,
words like 'block of disease'.
And there was your chest,
pale as a birch and as thin,
the blue islands, blue as pines,
like a map some pressure of geography
had caused. 'Of course,'
you said, glad to be useful again.
'Come here and look at this
perfect example of a paralysed larynx.'
Yet you could still speak
and to me your voice sounded
no different, textured, lyrical
like a rough piece of wood you'd handle
and plane or turn into shape,
forests in that voice,
beech and larch and teak,
a good bit of oak,
some pine grained as streaming water,
as wood shavings scattered on a sawdust floor.
Months later, driving through woods
there's a patch of larches, made
papery and apricot by light,
their evergreen shapes at odds
with their orange needled leaves,
and something of you has leaked
into them, something you would
have said about larchwood, some lost
knowledge, some connection only
I can make now with the saw's rasp
or planks lined up how you wanted them,
or with a student in the hospital, holding
the photograph and peering
like a craftsman at the blue islands
of your chest. In the ark of suffering
maybe you are there with him,
handing him the tools, advising,
that long muscle of your voice,
unbotched and clear.
Stephanie Norgate Reading from her Poems