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.



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


Ruth Fainlight

Ruth Fainlight Reading from her Poems

1A Sibyl

2Blocked Sibyl

3Driving Northward


5It Must

6Animal Tamer



9In Memoriam H.P.F.

10As Though She Were a Sister

11Death's Love-Bite

12The Knot

13On the Theme of Artifice


15Ovid among the Scythians

16That Presence

17A Mourner



20Late Low Sun


22Facts About the Sibyl

23Elegant Sibyl

24Friends' Photos

25Young Men


27Autumn Crocus


29Ordinary Sorrow



32Four Pheasants

33La Traviata in 2001

34Sheba & Solomon: I - Their Words

35Sheba & Solomon: XI - Water

36Sheba & Solomon: XII - Solomon's Desire

37Moon Wheels


39Lovely Hands


41Midland Contemporary

Books by Ruth Fainlight