Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Seven





The Children’s Heart Federation is launching a new national information campaign directed towards parents and medical professionals. The Think HEART campaign aims to empower and inform parents, as well as better educate medical professionals about the key early signs of a possible heart problem in children. Think HEART provides parents with five easy to spot signs to help identify if their child may have a heart problem and it gives them the confidence to raise the issue with their doctor or a health professional. Heart problems go undiagnosed in far too many children and Think HEART will increase early diagnosis and help to save children’s lives. To see what you can do to help, click here.


Squeezed Out
by Rosie Sandler

You’re primed for that final dive
towards the light; but my heart

is misbehaving – racing yours
in misplaced sympathy.

We move from home
to hospital:

“Blue light,” says the midwife,
“Blue light, please.”

And it’s only afterwards
I understand I could have died:

that my body, primed to push,
could have pushed too hard:

my heart bursting into her hands
with the eagerness of birth.

Would she have caught it,
wrapped it in a blanket,

handed it to your father
to take home – your cot-twin,

wheezing its leaky refrain
to your new breaths?

Rosie Sandler’s poems have been published in, among others: The Poetry of Sex, ed. Sophie Hannah, Penguin, 2014, The Rialto, London Grip, Lighthouse Journal, the 2013 Essex Poetry Festival anthology From the City to the Saltings, and Bugged: Writings from Overhearings, ed. Jo Bell and David Calcutt. She will be reading at the 2014 Essex Poetry Festival (http://www.essex-poetry-festival.co.uk/prog.html) and she hosts a blog for poets at: http://thepoetsresource.wordpress.com/


by John Siddique

There is a red line extending through
a past from my heart all the way back through
a series of cut out paper shapes,
images of my father, his large presence
when I am a small boy, the gaps in between
his returns after my parents’ split,
the moments of each of his reappearances.

The red line has been covered in leaves,
covered in footprints, forgotten from the map.
I have driven other roads, taken different trains,
eavesdropping conversations, holding on
to love so tightly in the absence of the line.

It lay untraced for thirty years, there but unseen,
present but not spoken about, walkable
in the space of heartbeats once rediscovered.

His large presence when I am a small boy.
The man of now wanting his father’s love.
The gaps between his returns, when I am full
of other stories so that I don’t need him.
The moments between each returning,
when in his losing his grip on his family
he tried over and again to demonstrate his love.

There is a red line extending from
my father’s heart to my heart. I have swept
the leaves and cleared the dirt from it.
The grown man can love his loves, kiss rather
than fear loss, pull tension into the bow of love,
launching arrows tied with red streamers
into the very sky

(First published in RECITAL – An Almanac, John Siddique, Salt, 2009)

John Siddique is the author of six books, the most recent of which is Full Blood. His work has featured in many places, including Granta, The Guardian, Poetry Review and BBC RADIO 4. The Spectator refers to him as ‘A stellar British poet.’ The Times of India calls him ‘Rebellious by nature, pure at heart.’ John is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is the current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at York St. John University. Website: www.johnsiddique.co.uk  Twitter: @johnsiddique


Wish Lists
by Philip Hancock

Moon face with pig eyes,
copper tuft, striped pyjamas,
came shrieking, shaking
the chain link fencing
of the end house, jump-started
our hearts, made us run.

One sticky afternoon,
must have been his dad
sat on the stoop, sleeves rolled up,
a tattoo, scalp showing
through his grey. The quiet
before the school bus with the ramp.

Toys scattering the yard
always too dear for us:
Captain Scarlet’s patrol car
in bronze, mighty Tonkas,
a David Brown pedal tractor.
Maybe next Christmas.

Likely he’d be no different,
ticking them in the catalogue,
outside Playlands kicking up a fuss.
Lie for ages on his belly
on the wonky concrete flags,
inventing engine noises.

Philip Hancock’s pamphlet Hearing Ourselves Think (Smiths Knoll 2009) was a Guardian Books of the Year 2010. Further work featured in OxfordPoets 2010 (Carcanet), and more recent poems in Areté, New Statesman, and Spectator. More about Philip and more poems here.


by Wendy French

A newly dug grave covered in fresh flowers –
the ground takes time to settle –
the roses need to be replaced.
There’s something bewildering about a wilting heart.
A woman in Jersey rises at dawn to attend
to her greenhouses. The florist who chooses,
cuts, displays each flower, weaves her wreaths to order.
Colours straight from a child’s paint box.
The turning of the lock, the opening of a front door.
Nails perfectly manicured, pale, mauve,
against the whiteness of a woman’s face.
Roses in the blue ceramic bowl.
This mother runs after the coffin,
believes that the moment, this moment has stopped,
has ceased to be. We wear the same colour jumper,
pale pink of the Albertine – the rose that climbs my fence.
There’s another place far from here where she calls
Rosie, Cariad, and a child runs out of school, head down,
not understanding the colour of her name – oblivious
to everything except a mother calling.
Blue-black cherries that glisten in the bowl –
stones discarded having forced herself to eat, waiting
for the moon to sink and set against a darkening light.
She takes herself to a seaside town to hear some Brahms.
This is not a place to visit in the dark,
The gull flies through night, red valerian blows on cliffs.
And at the sea-front, the waves upside down
don’t know which way to hit the shore.

(First published in Born in the NHS, by Wendy French and Jane Kirwan, Hippocrates Press, 2013

Wendy French has published several volumes of poetry and won first prize in The Hippocrates Poetry Prize in 2010, NHS category. She is currently Poet in Residence at the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre. Find out more here: http://wendyfrench.co.uk Twitter: @WendyFrench6

Ketchup Hearts
by Natalya Anderson

Our weekend place was called The Goof, because a portion
of Good Food had flickered out years before

At hushed diner booths French fries drew ketchup
hearts. Hot pecan tarts made cream puddles. In whispers

were mysteries of clasped arms, swinging through flakes
of snow. Flurries leavened heavy bellies, so we shuffled, slipped

to buy bars of marshmallow dreams, scalding them
down with frothing cups while I clutched at your coat

Natalya Anderson is a writer and former ballet dancer from Toronto, Canada. She was wooed by an Irish man from south Dublin, so they set-up shop in England as neutral territory to make a baby son and live life as a mishmash. She completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and a Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Website: www.natalyaanderson.com Twitter: @AndersonNatalya


(All poets have given their permission for their poems to be included on this site)



Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Six


The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is a registered charity. There are lots of ways you can help this charity raise important funds by organising your own event or taking part in some of the CHF events. There’s The Big Heart Bike Ride, The Dragon Boat Challenge or the slightly less strenuous Bring a Bear Day – to work or school.  There are fundraising opportunities for all ages, things that you can get involved in independently or as a group. Find out more about fundraising for the CHF here: http://www.chfed.org.uk/events-and-fundraising/

Oh England Heal My Hackneyed Heart
by Luke Wright

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
it’s shot with guilt and all those nights
I’ve shared it far too often, England;
bled it almost dry for eager eyes;
traded it for other hearts
that turned to gristle in my grasp.
Nothing stirs this heart these days
the party tricks have left it sick.
Oh England heal my hackneyed heart.

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
show me clumps of homes on hills
a couple holding hands in Hayle
or chalk stone words of love in Dorset fields.
Give me roads the motor clings to
herons over tidal mud
or skinny kids on wild swims
make me hike to The Hurlers on a whim.
Oh England heal my hackneyed heart.

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
wash it in the North Sea foam
wrap it up in honey dawn
make poultices from May Day dusk
and chicken soup from sleepy days
until it leaps and bangs its cage
until it thumps me with its thud
and gives me all the grief it should
Oh England heal my hackneyed heart.

Luke Wright is the winner of Channel 4’s 4Talent Award for poetry. Since 2006 he has written and performed eight one man shows, garnering stacks of five star reviews and touring all over the world. His debut collection, Mondeo Man (Penned in the Margins), was described by The Huffington Post as “a riot of cheek, giggles, boobs, tears and Facebook.” He’s known to millions of Radio 4 listeners for his witty and empathetic contributions to Saturday Live. His verse documentary The Seven Ages of Love was nominated for a Gierson Award. He curates Latitude’s Poetry Arena and is editor at Nasty Little Press.  Website: http://www.lukewright.co.uk/ Twitter: @lukewrightpoet

Cyanotic Child
by Denise Bundred

Klee scatters hearts on paper, pink with wash.
Black lines walk a checkerboard across the page,
divide his hearts into rectangles and triangles.

            I can name each chamber by its shape,
            the position of valves, relationships
            to spine and sternum, the twist of arteries.

Klee’s crayon smudges cyanotic blue
on nursery pink, expels the oxygen,
drives to the pit of his creation.

            My hearts hold the beauty of muscle
            where systole follows diastole, as certain
            as the progress of a pencil.

Klee’s hearts remain fixed,
flat, functionless and flawed.
And he hangs them on a wall.

            If I could create a heart, I would sketch a scaffold
            of lines and intersections to separate the chambers
            sculpt muscle layer upon layer.

I have seen endocardium reflecting
theatre lights. I know what a heart can do,
            how many ways it can fail.

 (‘Cyanotic Child’ was commended in the 2014 Hippocrates Prize and first appeared in the 2014 Hippocrates Prize anthology, edited by Michael Hulse and Donald Singer.)

Denise Bundred trained as a paediatrician in Cape Town and as paediatric cardiologist in Liverpool. In 2011 she completed an MA in Writing. She has poems commended and published in The Hippocrates Prize Anthology in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2013 she read with Rebecca Goss at the Manchester Literature Festival as part of a ‘Poetry & Medicine’ event. A review of that reading can be read here.


The Glass Heart
by Anne Caldwell

I’m rather fragile, transparent,
full of possibilities. I’ve been threaded
with a ribbon, wrapped in tissue, stuffed
in the loft for ten months with fairy lights,
a paper angel, the artificial spruce.

Dust me down, darling,
warm me in the palm of your hand.
I’ll remember my genesis:
the glass blower, a St Helen’s furnace.
I’ll remember sand, soda ash,
limestone, my dark Obsidian roots.

Let me be the jar that holds
your morning marmalade,
the mirror in which you brush
your teeth or the window on a bus
where you rest your cheek
as you head North.

Anne Caldwell is a poet, lecturer and Programme Director for NAWE. She is based in West Yorkshire. Her latest collection is Talking with the Dead, Cinnamon Press, 2011.  Blog: http://annecaldwell.net  Twitter: @caldwell_anne


(for Lydia and Alex)

By Hannah Copley

Today, the congregation’s murmur
is a heartbeat, and reminds me

of sonar’s echoing ping,
of the metal detector’s steady beep

as it combs the beach for a coin or ring.
Today, each of us can be acoustic

and hold the power to map –
with our own echoes of love

the hidden parts of icebergs,
whale pods, birds in flight.

Because today, as I put my ear
to the cold stone floor of this church

I hear a heart beat in
the footsteps of a bride:

the quickening pulse
of love love, love love along the aisle:

a common enough miracle, but I swear
that even the stained glass shivers

with the force of it, and the bells rise
and peel themselves in their reply.

Hannah Copley, 26, works as an editorial assistant at Stand magazine, and is the current co-editor of Poetry & Audience. She is currently working towards her first collection of poems.  Blog: http://hannahcopley.wordpress.com  Twitter: @HCopley and @Poetry_Audience


by Rosalind Hudis

This is my daughter asleep in the morning,
one hand between the silvery poles
of her cot, that remind me of birch trees.

She’s going to theatre soon.
The surgeon will snap her ribs
to reach a heart which can’t wake

itself properly inside its blue forest.
She mustn’t eat, so when she stirs and calls
my arms down for the first feed, I turn

to the wall. She beats a fist,
the size of a large bee, into air.
Her feet swim faster as if racing

a blind snow flood
and I am the snow. Later
it’s I who can’t reach

my child so far under,
her face a locked, white egg
in the thicket of tubes.

(Forthcoming in Tilt, by Rosalind Hudis, Cinnamon Press, 2014)

Rosalind Hudis is a poet based near Tregaron in West Wales. In 2013 she received a New Writers Bursary from Literature Wales. Her début pamphlet, Terra Ignota, was published by Rack Press in January 2013 and a full collection, Tilt, will be published by Cinnamon Press in October 2014. She co-edits the online literary journal, The Lampeter Review, and has collaborated on joint poetry and visual art projects with the artist and ceramicist Ian Rylatt. Twitter: @roshudis

by Robert Harper

Brighten my days, my dark days in which the tower falls
broken, in static sacrifice to failure. What cost this debt?
Fatal, as sudden wrench-gripped heart, clenched
without release—a timed precision controlling final tick.

Broken by failures debt, this static sacrifice has cost
more than a winter’s frost, more than a crying baby
without release from precise control until the final tick,
before a mother’s sodden skin can wash its face.

More than a winter’s frost scars that crying baby
as it dips frail head into a close Sunday bath
before a mother’s sodden skin can wash its face
in calm caress, denying nothing of her heart.

As bathing sun dips, the frail tulip heads close, day
falls into a powdered hush that chokes away the warmth
in calm caress, denies nothing of her heart
after noon is left to puddle as the shadow

falls into a powdered hush. That choking warmth weighs
heavy on a broken heart, idle as a buried bone in the
afternoon, left to puddle in the shadow
of her former self. Gripped in final contraction,

a heavy broken heart idles. Bones are buried,
broken, in static sacrifice to failure. What debt costs this
of her former self, gripped in final contraction,
without release? A timed precision controls the final tick.

Robert Harper has performed at poetry nights and events across Wales and the West Midlands. He is founding editor of Bare Fiction Magazine, runs the Shrewsbury Poetry Stanza, and is currently collaborating with composer Zakiya Leeming on a new piece for four voices which is based on the poem ‘Hush’. Robert is studying part time for an MA in Creative Writing.



 (All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)


Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Five


Discovering your child has a heart condition can be very traumatic.  The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) offer support. There’s  Heart Helpline, Children’s helplines and online forums.  For very young children, facing surgery the CHF has introduced MOLLY’S DOLLY, a rag doll with surgical scars to help explain scarring.  For children growing up with heart conditions there is BRIGHTHEARTS ‘an exclusive forum especially for 13-21 year olds from the Children’s Heart Federation. It’s a place to meet people of a similar age from around the UK with a heart condition.’  At the BHF there’s Meet@teenheart, a forum for teenagers with heart conditions offering advice on hospital visits and surgery, as well as providing online glossaries, diagrams and factsheets.


by Heidi Williamson

The way I heard it,
she said the rain would slip down, and each blade
lift beneath the weight of drops in ecstasy.
She said, sleep now, close the folds of your eyes
and see blankness, those lights that only you can know.
Forget the empty screen, the full book, the broken words.
The largest animals on earth have bones the same as yours,
and the smallest. The fingers of a bat’s wing, the massive
heart of a giraffe all connect their instruments to you.
She said this is prayer, if anything is, the simple lift
and fall of a lung beneath ribs beneath skin and all
the myriad functions that spawn it. Forget the frogs
beneath frozen ponds, waiting motionless for winter
to break. Hear only this breath, its air. Help form
the clouds with each out-take. Watch each breath
coast towards other lands and creatures. Let it go.

(First published in The Rialto, 2011)

Heidi Williamson’s first collection Electric Shadow (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the 2012 Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry. In 2008 and 2009 she was poet-in-residence at the London Science Museum’s Dana Centre. She is currently poet-in-residence at the John Jarrold Printing Museum. Find out more about her at www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com Twitter: @heidiwilliamson See her read ‘Adhesion’ here.


From: Opera di Cera 
by Kelley Swain

My love, with your scents of sunlight and myrrh: you carry
the greatest gift. Take this crown of oregano, rosemary, bay;

this ring with an emerald like your eyes. We are promised
to one another, and to the planted babe. A humble trinity.

First, he’ll be a pine nut; precious woody kernel tucked safe
within your sheathes; evergreen-strength yet to be released.

His green pistachio-limbs will begin to take shape, wax-pliant,
and he will branch into humanness slowly, in dark fertile terrain.

His almond-mind will grow sharp; his almond-spirit sweet; dust
of mother’s saffron, of father’s paints. Patience, stillness, he’ll gain.

Head and heart will round with the tenderness of walnut. No
more certain shape: the two sides of brain; left and right hemisphere.

Blessed chestnut will make our child sure. From thence, in range
of mother’s womb, his tiny form secure. We with joy await him.

(First published in Opera di Cera, Kelley Swain, Valley Press, 2014)

Kelley Swain is a poet, writer, and guest lecturer in Imperial College London’s Medical Humanities programmes. Learn more at www.kelleyswain.com Twitter: @thenakedmuse


Kaddish for Amy
by Joanne Limburg

Let us now magnify and sanctify the name of Him who made and warned us,
according to his Will,

who placed in us our soft or hardened hearts,
then blessed or punished us for what they made us do

who put an evil spirit into Saul, then gave a song to David
so he could drive the spirit out.

Let us bless and extol Him, exalt and praise Him,
who, beyond the reach of any song performable,
commands us still to sing.

(First published on Eyewear, 2011)

Joanne Limburg’s collections include Femenismo , Paraphernalia, the pamphlet The Oxygen Man and the children’s collection, Bookside Down. She has also published a memoir, The Woman Who Thought Too Much and has recently completed her first novel, Kindness.  Website: www.joannelimburg.net Twitter: @JoanneLimburg


Felling a Maiden
i.m. Maria Dimitri-Orthodoxou

by Maria Taylor

And what did she bring to the altar?
A dowry sack of vowels, a grinding toothache
of consonants. In a few inky moments
she would no longer be foreign or hard to spell.

She was not from round here, was torn
from fig and oleander, eucalyptus and sea,
though she didn’t speak with a faraway voice
or make lace with her grandmother’s needle.

After the wedding, I dismembered her.
I placed her in boxes, archived her into files
her atoms looped among cobwebs and dust,
under attic beams. A suburban oubliette.

I swallowed the heart whole. She was gone.
The silence was everywhere.

(First published in Melanchrini, by Maria Taylor, Nine Arches Press, 2012)

Maria Taylor’s first collection Melanchrini was published by Nine Arches Press and shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize in 2013. She blogs at http://miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk/ and tweets @MariaTaylor_


by Jon Glover

Some form of stupidity its
asking and telling beyond
silly playthings alarmed, stiff blood
ring, ring, so squeeze this, game on,
it’s bodily fluids, had it
putty stops going on round,
I suppose it’s quite satisfied,
already memorial
to heart, or hearts, now holding glass
windows in place with tacks and
linseed thumbed in the frame all round
as if in a house wall as

Jon Glover’s last book with Carcanet was Glass is Elastic. He is the managing editor of Stand. He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Bolton, and Honoroury Fellow of the School of English, University of Leeds. He is editing the Complete Poems of Jon Silkin. You can read an interview with Jon, about his life as a poet and editor here.

(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Four


Rebecca Goss writes: Within hours of my daughter Ella’s admission to Alder Hey Children’s Hopsital in 2007, we were introduced to Gill, our paediatric cardiac liaison nurse (PCLN). I had never heard of such a role within a hospital before, but soon realised how vital that role was. Gill was there to answer any questions we had about our daughter’s condition, explain hospital procedures and give practical advice.  The emotional support she provided to me, my husband and my extended family was invaluable too. 

I’m still in touch with Gill, years after Ella’s death and I asked her how she would describe the role of PCLN, (or Cardiac Nurse Specialist as they’re now more commonly known) in the world of cardiac care: ‘ We provide support, information and ensure you understand that information. We are a lynchpin between the family and the cardiologist. We are a resource of specialist information for the wider health and education community, particularly for health visitors, community nurses and teachers.  I think I have an amazing job. To be able to sit down with a new family, an older child, a teacher who will be terrified/devastated/completely in the dark and by the end to have been able to reduce that fear, answer those questions is so incredible that sometimes I forget how powerful just sitting down and talking can be.’ 

See the British Heart Foundation website for more:  http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/treatment/healthcare-professionals/paediatric-and-guch-nurses.aspx



by Lucy Burnett

(from the cumbric word
‘pen’ meaning hill or head)

i did not dream
euphoria of hillsong
failing nothing but

if the heart might
stop a moment
like a photograph:

my questions wore
the hillside
from the poem
and this pulse of pen

a hill a head

a gravity eroding
moments like

if my failures
were a kind of memory
i put my heart into

Lucy Burnett was born in South West Scotland but over recent years has made a home in the north of England. Her first poetry collection, Leaf Graffiti, was published by Northern House/Carcanet Press in 2013. ‘Pendle’ is taken from a pamphlet she is currently writing for Knives Forks & Spoons Press – due out in late 2014. Lucy has taught creative writing at the Universities of Salford and Strathclyde; she is currently Centre Director of Arvon Lumb Bank. Twitter @LucyBurnett14


by Eve Lacey

A flutter on the cardiogram, where the heart could not keep time.
Curious – a syncopated judder – in a body grown full size:

I took each breath like the first. It was not entirely adult
the compulsion to rehearse a mechanism just as natural

as rainfall to the quaking earth. To undergo full body shudder
with the weight of every breath, I had misconstrued the curse –

the Sisyphus link of lungs to heart, the cogs and gore of the work.
Life, said the nurse, should be took as a matter of course:

most will grow to withstand the shock of the pump
or the echo of blood that returns to its source.

Eve Lacey is Poetry Editor at For Books’ Sake and a judge for the Commonwealth Book Prize. Her work has been published in The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood and longlisted for the Hot Key Young Writers Prize. Furies, an anthology of contemporary women’s poetry, is forthcoming this autumn. Twitter @eve_lacey


The Heart at Ten to Six
by Mike Barlow

A borrowed house of light,
junkshop mirrors on the walls
and an old clock’s engine by the door –
intricate and beautiful,
but only true at ten to six.

Out here we never listen to The News.
Talk like that just baffles us.
With dumbstruck shrugs we turn back
to the view, register some minute change,
like a shift in the way light hits the sea
or a red yacht on a different tack.

Night-roaming beasts leave hoofprints
by the shore. I sleep well, dreaming
their obsidian stare, the pop
of bladderwrack, then wake
to the tricks of twilight mirrors play.

The bed sags where our bodies touch.
The chairs doze in their covers.
The stove says nothing.
The view that changes by the hour
will be the same each morning.
And when we tap the glass
the needle will be rising.

Mike Barlow won first prize in the 2006 National Poetry Competition and has published several volumes of poetry.  His most recent collection is Charmed Lives (Smith/Doorstop 2012) www.mikebarlow.org.uk


My Heart
by Sarah James

I tried to find it once, drew
a paper shape like a dog rose petal,
pink and unthorned.

My head nested in his chest,
I heard his steady tonal note.
Still, my pulse spat apple pips,

shat bird seeds, a febrile blip
on flat screen.                 Everything false-paced
by this thing I have not seen.

Hand rested on my breast bone,
I imagine flesh cleaved, then a muscle fist
slabbed raw on meat counter…

The deepening disappointment
that it will not sound braver, louder, longer
before its fragile song fades.

Sarah James’s latest collection is Be[yond] (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2013). Her first collection, Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010), won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011. Sarah’s website and blog is at http://www.sarah-james.co.uk . Twitter: @Sarah_James


Dear Heart
by Peter Kennedy

Ah, dear heart, these fifty years
on each St Valentine’s you’ve found
at breakfast time, or with your morning tea,

a simple heart shape, red, unsigned
but that’s no matter. For my dear
you know it comes from me.

When Peter Kennedy retired from his medical work he found a new life in poetry, and is a founder member and now administrator of the poetry organisation poetrywivenhoe: http://poetrywivenhoe.org/


(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)


Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Three


Rebecca Goss writes: My daughter Ella was diagnosed with Severe Ebstein’s Anomaly 36 hours after birth. Until then, I thought my daughter was a healthy baby.  The shock of discovering she was ill, just  as I was about to take her home, added to the trauma of Ella’s first days and my early hours as a parent. A simple check could test every newborn for possible heart conditions. That is why I’m supporting the Pulse Oximetry Campaign: 

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is campaigning for the introduction of Pulse Oximetry screening for all newborn babies in the UK. The test measures the oxygen levels in the blood and evidence shows it is an effective test in detecting three quarters of congenital heart conditions. The CHF is leading this campaign and pushing for its inclusion in the national screening programme of all newborns. To sign the Pulse OximetryPetition and/or write to your MP about screening, visit the CHF website here: http://www.chfed.org.uk/campaigns/chf-pulse-oximetry-campaign/

UPDATE! May 2014: The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) welcomes the announcement from Public Health England to pilot Pulse Oximetry screening on newborns and hopes testing will be rolled out to all hospitals as soon as possible.This quick, painless and cheap test measures oxygen levels in blood and can detect over 90% of life threatening heart defects at birth.  

Read more about this wonderful news herehttp://www.chfed.org.uk/babies-are-set-to-receive-heart-test-to-save-lives/


By Eleanor Hooker

Let us imagine sleep suddenly like a child’s shadow leaping round the corner.
George Szirtes [Tweet, March 21 2014]

They are shown
back lit negatives.
Trembling there
a caged pump,
fugitive and rare. They’re told
to hope for winter.

Latin name,
chordae tendineae.
Heart strings torn
from their winch,
fastened to a fleet, dropped fall,
that cannot winter.

No keepsakes.
None. They’re wrought by the
but must cope –
he carves Yew, while she unlearns
their child’s winter cry.

Eleanor Hooker’s debut collection The Shadow Owner’s Companion (Dedalus Press) was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine award for best first collection for 2012. Eleanor is Programme Curator for the Dromineer Literary Festival. She is Helm & Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat. Book: http://www.dedaluspress.com/p/q
Bio: http://www.dedaluspress.com/sp/directory/details/eleanor-hooker Twitter: @HookerEleanor

Prickly Pears
after Frida Kahlo

by Pascale Petit

With his soft painter’s hands
how quickly he peels me –

like a prickly pear,
removing my thorns.

In one flash
he becomes Diego the butcher

whose third eye can see
into the abattoir of my chest

where my heart hangs
from a meat-hook.

(First published in What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo, Pascale Petit, Seren, 2010)

Pascale Petit’s fifth collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren, 2010) was shortlisted for both the T.S. Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year, and was Book of the Year in The Observer. Poems from her sixth collection Fauverie (Seren, 2014) won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize. http://www.pascalepetit.co.uk
http://www.pascalepetit.blogspot.com Twitter: @pascalepoet


by Sarah Westcott

Write me a lambsong,
sing me a skin, yellow curls
coming through, curling to wool,
to warmth, long as a long tongue licking me –
filling my cells with milk.

We stole the lambskin –
I roll on its song,
we took its song, its young song,
unrolled the curves
laid them over our flat hills.

She places me at the core
where its heart grew –
I am naked in a pool of wool
floating my bones in chambers of air,
lamb wool singing me.

Outside the ewes are calling,
I am the cry and she comes.

(First published in The Poetry Review, Spring 2014 http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/publications/review/current)

Sarah Westcott is a poet and journalist who lives near London with her family. Her debut pamphlet, Inklings,(Flipped Eye, 2013) was the Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice for Winter 2013 and she is working towards her first full collection. She blogs at  http://literary-loper.blogspot.co.uk/ Twitter: @sarahwestcott1


Heart Song For A Watch
by Rebecca Audra Smith

I wind you up, flick my nails against your face
to make you start, your battery heart complies.

You are the hourglass that shapes my sapling clock,
trickles away the grains of sand.

Look what a beach we’ve built, so many years,
so many seconds, you keep count while I sleep.

Steadfast partner in the night, my lapping heart,
your regular chant, my inward tock.

Bound as a puppy at the feet of the girl who spent
three hundred pounds on his beautiful pure breed eyes.

But you are just the one on a band strapped to my wrist
which I wear like a second skin, next to my pulse.

What do you get from me? I ask your pauses, at least
make time for a thought, a heartfelt word or two.

Press my lips to you and mouth
dear warmth on your stark world.

Rebecca Audra Smith is a post-MA poetry student, she is one half of Stirred Feminist Poetry Collective based in Manchester. She blogs at beccaaudra.wordpress.com, tweet her @BeccaAudra


( May Day) or how sunshine feels
for Claire and Keith

by Maureen Jivani

Like the brink
of sleep

or that almost dream
purpled with ghosts,

heavy like Queensland’s

their velvet scent
the heart

of avenues
where we greet

our children
as old as toddlers,

Disney on their lips
and blossoms in their hair.

Maureen Jivani’s poetry has been published in the UK, America, Australia, and New Zealand. She has a pamphlet, My Shinji Noon published in the Mulfran Miniatures Series. Her first full collection: Insensible Heart ( Mulfran Press 2009) was shortlisted for the London Fringe Festival Poetry Award 2010. She also writes flash fiction, and is currently working on her second collection of poems. http://www.mulfran.co.uk/MaureenJivani.html


(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Two


Congenital heart disease is a term which covers any heart abnormality present from birth. One in every 133 babies in the UK is born with a heart condition, over 5,000 babies per year.
Acquired heart defect is a term which covers a heart abnormality that develops after a baby is born. An estimated 500 -1000 children each year develop heart conditions after they are born.
Improvements in paediatric heart surgery and clinical care have led to more children with heart conditions surviving into adulthood. The number of adults with heart conditions is now increasing at an estimated rate of 5% per year. (Source: www.chfed.org.uk)


What Would You Say?
by John Harvey

What would you say of a man who can play
three instruments at once – saxophone,
manzello and stritch – but who can neither
tie his shoelace nor button his fly?

Who stumbles through basements,
fumbles open lacquered boxes,
a child’s set of drawers,
strews their contents across bare boards –
seeds, vestments, rabbit paws?

Whose favourite words are vertiginous,
gourd, dilate? Whose fantasy is snow?
Who can trace in the dirt the articular process
of the spine, the pulmonary action of the heart?

Would you say he was blind?

Would you say he was missing you?

(from ‘Out of Silence: New & Selected Poems, Smith/Doorstop, May, 2014)

Poet, dramatist, publisher and occasional broadcaster, John Harvey’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, the first of his twelve Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, being named by The Times as one of the ‘100 Best Crime Novels of the Century’; the most recent, and final novel in the series, ‘Darkness, Darkness’, will be published this May. Website: www.mellotone.co.uk  Blog: http://mellotone70up.wordpress.com  Twitter: @John_BHarvey


by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

This machine              listens to me.

In my pulse,                            it hears                        the mysterious melodies

of valves and vessels

closing and opening              in symphony.


By some unseen alchemy,

it deciphers                             these cyphers


messages         along coiled cables     and      long  leads      to where

a needle          scrapes                        a scribbled script


and falling

in spiked ink scrawl.




the needle’s crawl

as my heart, my broken muscle                    scratches         dispatches of despair.

Electrocardiogram.    Telegram.


The cardiologist approaches             (white coat, stitched brow, stethoscope)

unrolls the scroll

nods                            peers at the pointed peaks, the low valleys

contemplates and translates

this undeniable diary of days

this most recent history of my heart.


I am                             caught between recollection  and     premonition


both the blade            that cut           my cord          and     the surgeon’s scalpel

hurtling toward me


my history and future                        unfold                         from this machine


(first published The Stinging Fly, Winter 2013)

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual poet based in Ireland, writing both in Irish and in English. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair  are both published by Coiscéim, and her bilingual chapbook A Hummingbird, Your Heart  is available as a free download from Smithereens Press. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her bursaries in literature. Doireann was the winner of a Wigtown Award (Scotland) in 2012 and in 2013 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (USA). www.doireannnighriofa.com  Twitter: @DoireannNiG


Stephen Lawrence isn’t on the National Curriculum
by Josephine Corcoran

I tuck you in
with long ago & far away,
pull the blanket of it wasn’t us, it wasn’t
here, around your heart although I know
that five inches is 13 centimetres,
that 130 yards would cost a lot
of blood. There’ll be Rosa Parks
& Martin Luther King for homework,
there always is & someone saying it’s good
we teach them that,
but no-one has a map of south east London,
today your teacher didn’t say his name.
I teach you this: he spelled it with a ‘PH’
not a ‘V’, in 1993
he was eighteen,
he wanted to be an architect,
he was waiting for a bus.

(previously published in The Morning Star)

Josephine Corcoran works part-time for The Reader Organisation in Wiltshire. She runs the ‘And Other Poems’ poetry blog: www.andotherpoems.wordpress.com Twitter @And_OtherPoems She has a pamphlet forthcoming with Tall-Lighthouse later this year.


by Kaddy Benyon

Held on the map of my palm
I have a sense of a different ending.
Each threaded vein of it reaching
beyond the pebble’s edge
connects to the carved pink leys
and channels of my skin. Here –
a heartline not stopping at loss,

but breaking free to ramble now
in search of finer trails: scents, traces
of life unsevered by my other hand.
There – a new passage overlays
a violet twist of hate and shame, wipes
out a fatal double-helix long enough
to let your gift’s bright tributaries

reroute the past and navigate a
continent of trust. My heart’s needle
shivers and spins, settling for
a true north where this wander lust
must begin, must end, each new
territory crossed taking me further
from your touchstone: closer to myself.

Kaddy Benyon was born in Cambridge and worked as a television scriptwriter for a number of years. In 2010 she was shortlisted for the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize. She won the Crashaw Prize 2011 with her debut collection, Milk Fever. In 2012 she was named a Granta New Poet. She is currently Invited Poet at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge where she is writing her second collection. Twitter: @KaddyBenyon


by Anthony Wilson

Let me invade your heart.

Let me into your hurt

and heal where no one sees.

I place a kiss, here, on your eyes.


(Let me invade your hurt).

Let me infect where it tears

at you, unseen, in the heart.

Let me dry your eyes.


Let me in. (Your hurt

might burst and invade the world).

I cradle it, as a baby

crying out in the dark.


Let me. I come as a child

comes, with open hands,

into your dark. To hurt me,

let me invade your heart.

Anthony Wilson is a poet, blogger and researcher. His most recent books are Riddance (Worple, 2012) and Love for Now (Impress Books, 2012), a memoir of cancer. Love for Now  is available here He lives and works in Exeter. He can be found online at www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com Twitter: @awilsonpoet


(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)





Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week: Day One


The Children’s Heart Federation is the leading children’s heart charity and direct service provider as well as the umbrella body for voluntary organisations; working to meet the needs of children and young people with congenital and acquired heart conditions and their families.  Their vision is one of ‘a society in which all children with congenital heart disease have both their medical and social needs met so that they can live life to the full.’ You can find out more about them at www.chfed.org.uk  Twitter: @CHFed and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chfed

Strong Heart Songs
By Jo Bell

When their men rode off in warpaint
the women of the prairie tribes
stood tall to sing Strong Heart Songs.
They sang the strength into their men:
You must be saying all the time to yourself:
I must be brave. I must not fear anything.

Even when the fight came to the camp itself,
a tumble of hoof and promised pain,
the women of the prairie tribes stood tall
in blankets stitched with scorpions
and sang of heroes, battles won, brave deaths.

Our tribe is daily gathering itself for battle.
One standing up to nightmares in the classroom;
one is harried in her genius by disbelief;
another, back-to-back with all the clan;
one, racing with his life against a wily horseman.

Braves, as you go to hospital or courtroom,
as you start that meeting with the twinset London girl
who thinks that Birmingham is in the North;
the doctor drawing up the battle lines;
the midwife still insisting that you’re not in pain;

stand tall and listen for the tribe.
draw round the scorpion-stitched blanket,
listen past the bow and battle cry
and hear us singing Strong Heart Songs:
You must be saying all the time to yourself:
I will be brave. I will not fear anything.

Jo Bell is an award-winning poet. Formerly the director of National Poetry Day, she is now the UK Canal Laureate for the Poetry Society and CRT. Find out more at jobell.org and on Twitter: @Jo_Bell


The Break-heart
by Jacob Polley

I was a worker, am a worker, I’m at work
so I don’t have to be at home.
And still I will not speak.

I want to tell, but how to tell? I was a mother.
What more is there to tell or know?
How can you tell a mother?

A mother has a child. My motherhood is done.
No one can see my motherhood.
No one can see my son.

The grief I swallow, grief I will not wallow in.
There’s nothing to me, not a thing.
All I am is losing him.

I’m not a mother, I don’t show, nobody knows
I had a son. And now instead
of him his absence grows.

Jacob Polley has published three books of poems with Picador, The Brink, Little Gods and, most recently, The Havocs. His first novel, Talk of the Town, was published in 2009. His work has received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and Somerset Maugham Award, and he lives in Fife, where he’s a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Andrews. Website: www.jacobpolley.com  Twitter: @ExeterTwiddle  A longer and musical version of this poem was created as part of London Sinfonietta’s Blue Touch Paper programme.  See more, including an interview with Jacob here.

by Mary Robinson

In spring the garden fills with hearts:
Ranunculus ficaria – leaves cordate,
lesser celandine. Tadpole tubers
spawn underground, and for a week or two
those heart-shaped leaves award,
in school-room yellow, unmerited gold stars.


Mary blogs at http://maryrobinsonpoetry.blogspot.co.uk  Her first full-length poetry collection The Art of Gardening was published by Flambard Press in 2010.Her poetry pamphlet Uist Waulking Song is with Westward Books 2012. www.maryrobinson.org.uk  Twitter @LMERobinson

The Discovery
By Harry Man

Flight of Saturn V SA-511
Apollo 16, CM Callsign Orion, LM Callsign Casper Command Pilot: John W. Young,
Command Module Pilot: Thomas K. Mattingly II, Lunar Module Pilot: Charles M. Duke Jr
16th April 1972

This Saturn V sheds her heavy feathers
in the smoke, a rising asterisk of light,
the tank, pencil-slim, gimbals
twisting through the portal
between us and the airless shallows
of our immediate orbit.

The second stage too falls away,
and, for a split second
the pilots are blinded
by a vapour hotter than lightning
only to open their eyes
in the uninterrupted night.

It is so very still up there;
mission control becomes wind,
your own hands the horizon,
the difference between day and night
in the humming of lights,
a sense of home
nearer than a fireproof flight plan,
nearer than freeze-dried blueberries,
the sound of your own heart
in the night-time
a picture in crayon
from your son
which says ‘Daddy’
with the Moon
drawn in purple
and an arrow
for guidance.

(First published in Elbow Room, 2012)

Harry Man was born in Aylesbury in 1982 and lives in South London. His pamphlet ‘Lift’ won the Bridges of Struga Award 2014 and is shortlisted for the ‘Best Pamphlet’ in the 2014 Saboteur Awards.  His work has appeared in Poems in the Waiting Room, Astronaut, Battersea Review and Elbow Room among other places. www.manmadebooks.co.uk  You can read another ‘heart poem’ by Harry here: https://andotherpoems.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/harry-man/


The Susceptible Heart
by Amy Key

Nothing to be done about the sky, its early fall.
You give me match-strike, candelabra, chandelier.
This year, autumn doesn’t matter.
                                             If lit by dawn,
my mind will clamour to recall how our kiss left off,
how the evening’s talk – steeped in dramatics – set off
that wordless flourish. But tonight pours
into your absence. Take this half of ale,
sipped with one eye on your tastes and just now
my fringe swept away with your imagined hand.
Our romance, tracked by a fling of mill-town
horns, an elementary fiction of sweethearts.

Amy Key’s collection Luxe was published by Salt in 2013. She is co-editor of Poems in Which. Website: amyvkey.com  She tweets @msamykey.


(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)