In the Space of That Year by Clare Shaw

January 14: I register her birth,

which is to say,

somebody writes it on paper. My face is a cave.

We walk round town but nowhere’s open.

She hangs from me, small weight.

I’m meat,

heavier than you’d think was possible.

Each night, she drifts in her basket

through waves of colourless sleep

I can hardly believe anymore.

She’s a small cat, curled at my chest,

searching for breast like air;

her mouth, its entire own creature.

Nobody told us a thing;

that mouth and its hunger

and nothing to fill it but me –

the mouth like a punishment – nobody warned us;

counting her life up

in gulps – fifty-nine, sixty –

in the open and shut (third time this night)

of her breakable throat.

World emerged

from the winter we willed her into,

its lights, its forest of noises

(she could not focus, she did not know us);

colour belled and pressed

like hands heeled hard against the eyes.

glowing like pain or clouds of stars;

like blood or spring arriving.

World took shape in air and its textures;

she was pushed through or lifted;

she slavered and slept; she was still

and the silence was bees.

Her arms were Africa.

her legs were Russia. Her back was

Here Be Monsters

and though there had always been voices

it was out of the dream

world reached her;

with the cold plastic skin of a mat.

With light.

With hunger and faces;

the absence of water;

with dog, and the shock

of a sneeze.

She could not lift her own head.

She could not sit up

or eat. Could not speak.

She could not find her feet

until she did

Clare Shaw (published in Jubilee Lines edited by Carol Ann Duffy)

Listen to it here

I came across this poem tonight and it spoke to me. Shouted at me. In the words of Carol Ann Duffy herself,  “this is what it is like, or what it is like in words”. This is birth, of motherhood, of Pip.



  1. Suzie June 8, 2012 / 11:36 pm

    That’s beautiful. And a bit scary, but mostly beautiful. Reminds me a little bit in places of Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Morning Song’ – one of my favourite Plath poems. Do you know it? Lots of love x x

    • thelittlepip June 8, 2012 / 11:45 pm

      I looked it up and I can see why you say that. Plath’s poem is also a good description but there is something about Shaw’s that is simply Pip and me. 🙂

  2. Suzie June 8, 2012 / 11:46 pm

    I think it was the mention of the cat…! x x

    • thelittlepip June 8, 2012 / 11:51 pm

      It was more than the cat 🙂 I think it was the way that her descriptions made me think of Pip. Like a physical reaction. almost like I can smell her, when reading those words. (and Shaw’s is a bit more personally accurate, I think, perhaps because she sounds a bit more desperate, and that is how I sometimes feel?)

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