Poem introduction

This poem is about two old blue Witney blankets which were the blankets on my bed when I was a child, and I didn't see them for decades. I left home, had my life etcetera, then, when I was clearing out my family's house after the deaths of my parents, I found these same two blankets and I took them home, and I now use them again, and they inspired this poem.

Blankets

Blankets

The stuffy ground-floor bedroom
at the back of our flat. The bed,
covered with blue Witney blankets
bound with paler blue velvet.

Measles, scarlet fever,
influenza, whooping cough.
The night I tripped over the oilstove
Mother lit to warm the bathroom.

From hip to heel, burning
paraffin splashed. Weeks in bed
under a sort of cradle made
to hold the weight of the blankets off.

Bunches of flowers, orange and red,
climbed the faded papered walls
up to the ceiling. My eyes rolled back
in their sockets, counting the nosegays.

Nightmares under the blankets.
Like sodden tufts of moss
bulging virulently green,
mounting the window ledge

and oozing through the open gap,
sooty spores clogging my
nostrils and mouth, the touch
of velvet would make me scream.

I still sleep under those blankets
(their velvet binding rubbed bare)
the self-same ones I pulled around
my shoulders and hid beneath:

now potent and dangerous
as plague-infected blankets thrown
over the walls of a city besieged,
or exchanged for the sacred land

of people with no more immunity
to the pathogens they carried, than I
to the fevers of memory in the folds
and the weave of these old blue blankets.


from Moon Wheels (Bloodaxe, 2006), © Ruth Fainlight 2006, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books

Recordings

Ruth Fainlight

Ruth Fainlight Reading from her Poems

1A Sibyl

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2Blocked Sibyl

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3Driving Northward

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4Trees

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5It Must

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6Animal Tamer

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7Passenger

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8Handbag

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9In Memoriam H.P.F.

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10As Though She Were a Sister

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11Death's Love-Bite

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12The Knot

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13On the Theme of Artifice

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14Poppies

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15Ovid among the Scythians

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16That Presence

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17A Mourner

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18Homage

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19Lineage

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20Late Low Sun

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21Thunder

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22Facts About the Sibyl

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23Elegant Sibyl

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24Friends' Photos

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25Young Men

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26Whatever

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27Autumn Crocus

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28What

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29Ordinary Sorrow

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30Potatoes

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31Feathers

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32Four Pheasants

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33La Traviata in 2001

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34Sheba & Solomon: I - Their Words

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35Sheba & Solomon: XI - Water

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36Sheba & Solomon: XII - Solomon's Desire

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37Moon Wheels

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38Blankets

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39Lovely Hands

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40Crocuses

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41Midland Contemporary

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Books by Ruth Fainlight