My baby’s heartbeat – Joanna Ingham

My baby’s heartbeat

races to fill the midwife’s room,
unfeasibly fast and skittish.
She tells me it’s normal. I think of

Steve, one of my young offenders,
acned, eighteen, and a father,
how he has prepared me for this.

The trick is to listen for a train
or a horse, a boy or a girl.
It’s never wrong, he promised.

He sat in a place like this once,
beside his girlfriend, teeth in braces,
and heard his son rumble

over the tracks towards him.
He was there at the birth too,
for the first six weeks before

he went to jail. He still misses
the nappies, the careful craft
of nightfeeds, his son and the bottle.

Now it’s my turn, twenty years
older than he is, and I strain
for hooves galloping on hillsides,

the clackety clack of carriages.
I wish that Steve was with me, his ears,
because he knows these things.

Joanna Ingham lives in Suffolk and writes poetry and fiction. She has two pamphlets: Naming Bones (ignitionpress, 2019) and Ovarium (The Emma Press, forthcoming in June 2022). Her first full collection was shortlisted in Live Canon’s 2021 Collection Competition. Website: Twitter: @ingham_joanna

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