Daily Archives: August 26, 2018

Root Canal Wars

This week I’ve been living Return of the Root Canal. If that sounds like a Hammer Horror, it’s only because it is. The old root canal infection that I had in January came back this week, not quite as fierce, but persistent. The dentist warned me that it would, but, being terminally optimistic, I didn’t believe him. The tooth started being sore a week last Friday but I pretended it wasn’t happening. By Tuesday I couldn’t keep up the pretence any longer and I got an emergency appointment to see my dentist. More antibiotics and a referral to the dental hospital for treatment options, none of them pleasant. I don’t have time for dental treatment right now, so I’m actually quite pleased the waiting list for an appointment is months, and the waiting list for treatment is months beyond that. I should be finished the PhD before I have to have the treatment, by which time I’ll probably be on my fourth course of antibiotics, if the infection continues to return every six months or so. I’m pleased to report that the pain was receding by Saturday, so I think the microbes are dying. Sometimes, I can actually feel the battle in the root canal, the lymphocyte infantry stamping away in their MOD issue footwear, backed up by the heavy artillery of the Amoxicillin, all pounding away at the bacteria leaving casualties on both sides. So this week, what with toothache, Amoxicillin and paracetemol surging through the anatomy, I’ve been so tired! That’s why I’m late with the piece this week: I slept for six hours last night, which is a long lie-in for me.

But I have worked: at the thesis and at poetry, so all’s good. You can’t keep an old dog down. I’m happy to report that I’m now 76.7% through the tasks my support team set me at our last meeting. That was helped by being able to get rid of my own poems, replace them with references to the poems instead, along with analyses. I’ve taken most of my poems out of the thesis as I’ve gone along: they are now a separate section of the work after the bibliography, just a line or two retained to back up the argument. The collection has a title; but it’s even worse than ‘Title Page’ so I won’t tell you what it is. I’m pants at coming up with catchy titles. ‘All My Mad Mothers’, ‘I’m Becoming My Mother’, ‘Mommy Dearest’: other people are good at ‘mother’ titles. And the best I can come up with is ‘Title Page’! I’ll probably settle for a line from one of the poems; but it has to speak for the whole collection and for the theme of the PhD. I think I’m over-thinking it.

I’ve been back to in-depth analysis of Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica andThe Huntress this week. I spent hours of my last Zakinthian holiday reading and making notes on these two collections. When I went back to them this week I found so much I had missed last September. She is a poet on so many layers. I love poetry, love it. I do. That’s all.

I saw my dentist on Tuesday after lunch, so that took up a couple of hours of my allotted work time. After the consultation, and armed with the Amoxicillin, I did what any normal person would do, I called in at the garden centre en route home for an al fresco coffee to give me chance to start the microbe wars. It was a lovely warm afternoon, not particularly sunny but very pleasant sitting amongst the flowering plants drinking coffee, eating crumpets, taking drugs. Did I not mention the crumpets? Mmmh, good comfort food. I was thinking about pickled walnuts as I sat there. My mum used to pickle her own. I have to write a poem for Tuesday’s Stanza meeting, and I was thinking about my mum pickling walnuts from Mary Loder’s tree that overhung the drive to our house. A narrative poem of sorts began to form itself, I took notes and when I got home I wrote that poem. I’m quite pleased with it. I’ve been working on it, getting it ready for its adoring public on Tuesday. But the good news is, it’s a poem that will fit into the portfolio as well. Yesterday it earned it’s place between ‘Churning’ and ‘Spoons’. So Tuesday afternoon wasn’t entirely wasted.

On Wednesday, after my early morning run, I was back at my desk chipping away at the thesis, working mostly on Pascale’s poetry. I love it when time passes and you’re so engrossed you don’t notice it passing. It was only when my tummy growled that I realised it was way past lunchtime. I stopped for lunch. By then the tooth was particularly painful with all that antibiotic warring so I indulged the root canal and pampered myself on the sofa with Inspector Morse for the rest of the day. Bill even cooked tea; it was even edible! In the evening I responded to Rebecca Bilkau’s editorial email re minor edits. My set of poems for publication is duly edited and returned to her.

Yesterday I was back at my desk, working away on the thesis. I’m determined to  meet my September deadline having addressed all the issues the team raised, and I’m getting there. Next Friday I’m driving us both to Aberaeron for a fortnight in a holiday cottage. No flights out of UK this year, I’m going somewhere I can take all the  books I need, I’ll be working for a couple of hours every morning before breakfast. I will make that end-of-September deadline, I will! Have I told you, I’m heartily sick of PhD, I wonder why, or even when, I ever thought it was a good idea. But the end is in sight, a pin-prick of light at the end of a long winter tunnel. By the spring I’ll be free; and hopefully successful. I’m going to read rubbish novels for the rest of my life; and brilliant poetry, obviously.

So a poem: it’s another ‘alternative mother’. I’ve been experimenting with women who could have been my mother but weren’t. I’ve thought about women I knew: aunts, friends’ mothers, women I’ve met in my life. I’ve extended the idea to historical heroes: Pope Joan and Boudicca for instance; and literary heroes: Alice, The Wife of Bath. I’ve thought about men as mothers, even a three-toed sloth; even the place where I grew up, viewed as a mother. This week I’m posting ‘Alice’, a poem I wrote in St Ives last April. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was one of my favourite books as a child, I read and reread it several times. I had a lovely 1930s hardbacked copy, given to me by a relative who was a headteacher in a primary school. The book was missing all its illustrations, as she’d cut them out to mount for classroom wall displays. By the way, Kim Moore’s St Ives residential for next year is being finalised right now. We just heard that Amanda Dalton is to be the second tutor alongside Kim. How good is that. Think about it quickly though because places are filling up fast: https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/residential-poetry-courses/st-ives-residential-poetry-course/

Alternative Mother #16


 She keeps disappearing.
When it’s all too much for her
she clears off and we’re left
asking the fat caterpillar,
the grinning tabby
if they’ve seen her.

She keeps disappearing.
You can be playing cards,
but you trump her red queen
and pfft!
she’s gone.

One minute she’s there, peeling spuds;
the next, peeler and spuds by the sink,
frilly pinny on the dining chair back.
Call all you want
she won’t answer.

Sometimes, even when she’s there
in front of your eyes
there’s no talking to her.
You can see she’s away with the bunnies.

Yesterday she was baking jam tarts
lifting them carefully from the oven.
Next, boiling jam and pastry
all over the kitchen floor
and she’s nowhere to be seen.

Mushrooms are the worst.
She’s a different person
when she’s chopping mushrooms.

She just keeps disappearing
like a pool of tears
or grass stains on washday
or tea stains on a dormouse
or words left too long in the sun.

Last time she disappeared
there was a strong smell of damp earth,
the acrid stench of tunnels.


Rachel Davies
April 2018