Plays by Deborah Freeman

I have completed `Remedies,` a play about M E.  Background research...

Writing Groups

I am setting up a new writing group in East Finchley, to be held in the atmospheric location of an East Finchley...

Novels by Deborah Freeman

 A few years back. I answered an ad on the Radio 3 website, from the conceptual art company, Blast Theory...

Poems by Deborah Freeman

These appeared in the journal Jewish Renaissance, 2008.  `Fish.` `Fasting.` `Open a Gate for Us. ` `After the...

Poems by Deborah Freeman

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These appeared in the journal Jewish Renaissance, 2008.  `Fish.` `Fasting.` `Open a Gate for Us. ` `After the Fast.` 

 

 

 

Fish

Yom Kippur these days means fish.
He likes fish after his fast;
herring, ice-grey, stick-rolled.
Baked, fried, chopped hake or cod,
or whiting from autumn shops.

Yom Kippur afternoon he reads
`Jonah`. The way his father always did it.
The words are old patterns on wall-paper
in a room in the unchanged house.

Onion-eyed, fish-handed, I see
my bared breath on stainless steel.
Glinting, his fish lies diagonal, stiff
beside my reflection. I push it under
the tap. Its eyes catch wet sunshine.

All I have left, God, is a fish.
All you seem to have left me is a fish.

Fasting

Silver entrails invite me.
Instead of chopping a fish
I`m in one.
Is this a fish that offers blessings?
In its giant hollows
caverns pulsate with blood.
Eggs spread in clouds
out into the ocean.
The deeper you go in
the quieter it gets.

 

Open a Gate for Us.

Near the end they sing about gates.
`Petach Lanu Sha`ar.` Open a gate for us.

I think of all the gates I`ve opened,
or not opened. And I want to be a gate;

to swing, squeaking, and let people through;
to slam, iron-hard, and keep people out.

Or in. Let me be grilles and bars for ever.
Or hinges - skilled, oiled, complex, secure.

Then, when I am at my hungriest, though not
feeling hunger, light-headed, drained of days,

I think of the dream I had when I was
a child and didn`t know what it meant.

I came into a large hall. Far away,
the other side of it, I saw a door.

That door grew bigger, brighter, and smaller,
more diminutive, both at the same time.

I woke up knowing something
but not what.

After the Fast.

Dusk falls and it`s all over. I go home
past children playing in the autumn cool,.
In just enough light to catch sycamores by,
they polish conkers in their small hands.
I pick one up.  An uneven globe, a chunky seed.
A child`s weapon; and a burnished promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This poem was published in a journal set up for English language poets in Israel. It was the first poem I ever sent anywhere. The journal was called `Voices.` It still exists.

Wind    wind     wind
    and a solitary winter ant
       clambering exclusively on shifting sands
            big shineblack and odd

Sand    sand   sand
    and two pairs of wintry hands
       scoop out secrets, collecting them
          jumping bodies and cold sand
             laughing to meet the sea

Sea     sea    sea
    where the black clods of tar
        ride the waves
           and tell me where we are
                the century, place, wherefores, and
                   then, the clods stick under your toes
                         and the waves stop telling

Mind   mind    mind
    I think I mind all this
      I, I am still I,
           under the wind sand sea and sky.
  

This poem was included in the Lancaster Literature Festival Collection, 1984.
I was training as a Psychiatric Social Worker. I was dismayed by the contrasts
between the world of the professionals, and the world of the clients. There was one
particular psychiatrist who incessantly quoted `Studies...`


Mrs Reed is being NFA`d today. She salutes,
half an onion and blunt knife busy, fatpatches
on the flagstones underfoot. Her cat: leapt
for scraps last night over her Timmy. Timmy
had one Discretionary Cot but the cat slipped.
Timmy squealed, grabbed the railings, which
snapped. Now he lies snug in a plywood drawer.


 Mrs Reed misses appointments. Timmy pisses
up walls and down them. Timmy and Mrs Reed
posed in the clinic for photographs. Timothy
has titles. Enuretic. Encopretic. Mixed
Emotional/|Conduct Disorder. Mother Unpunctual.
Mrs Reed calls the clinic fucking pathetic.


Still doctors sit to mull her case, spiced
with the flavours of social work, psychology,
Marxist terminology and God`s good grace. Faces
pored like wholemeal bread, intestines tight
with vitamins and gut-goodies. Prior to voting
they quote Studies. Interdisciplinary, sixty-one,
seventy-one, seventy-nine (and the on-going.)
It simply won`t do won`t wash won`t work or go.


A secretary will write to let Mrs Reed know.
Mrs Reed washes down her walls, frowning.
When, or is it if she learns to keep appointments
(the Salford bus runs twice in the hour grimily
and wobbles so both babies yowl; the handle
of the buggy broke last month,) a behavioural
programme has been prepared - with silver stars.


Deborah Freeman Manchester 1984

This poem was published in Writing Women, in 1989.  On one of my regular family visits to Jerusalem, I had noticed several women - my mother, sisters and an aunt, all wearing shawls.....


One way in which the women of Jerusalem grow old:
with shawls. Knitted ones, or lace, or Italian acrylic.
Woollen chain-mails, all creams and placid ivories,
dusty and dry, like Jerusalem pines, or her sky.


Shawls like phantoms glide through this city.
Grey lizard skins, gnarled, fleck nightly across
cool verandas. The ladies of the western alliance
lean thoughtfully as they age. Their faces fall,


brown, lengthening, like their English vowels.
Jewesses of the East, jewelled like to bear
their white shawls as crowns, or wear them,
curled in close, pale, like skins of garlic.


Arab grandmothers, lined, bend, their loose lace
armour binding, binding generations. All of these
close their eyes to the sharp night, turn for sleep,
bellies soft, breasts shifting for pillows, floors.


And at dawn the land unfolds, mists go nuzzling,
moistening the full silver of olive-leaves, poplars,
purple vineyards. Sunlight cuts at terraces, dries
furrows. Buses, holy pianolas of engineered sound
carry passengers over earth`s hardening grounds.

Telephone Trilogy

(Published in `Palantir`  1980 )

One

  The rings are a staircase of filigree silver
  discs of sound on which I swerve, cold-limbed.
  I am a ringed monkey in a forest of glitter,
  gesturing, clawing brightly.


  This could be the high-pitched season
  of a new town-cryer! His `oyez,`
  trills and beats. I will await
  pronouncements with expectation.


  Milkvans hum, babies cry sourly, bulletins
  flash between the golden bars of your theme.
  Gale warnings abound. Seashells, at my ear
  rattle old yarns of caves and smugglers.


  Your call, counterpoint to my search
  riddles the simple chords, first subject,
  catches them, prisoners, in peals.
  The tunes tighten like tourniquets.

     *     *     *

Two

  I am beside the telephone
  gilt of sun on my hair,
  sliver of autumn on my skin,
  about to phone, to say
  
  `I love you. Please come home.`
  As autumn comes we will draw in,
  warmer, more trusting than ever.


  Or to say, `Get lost.` The brisk
  morning exhilerates me, exonerates.
  From here I see no thorns
  On our red and pink roses.

  Here is the truth. Let it ring or not.
  I will go into the garden. Once there
  I will discover a mood, read omens
  on the sun-dial.
  
  Here is the truth.
  The truth about us eludes me.

      *  *  *

Three

  Knowing you were not there
  I allowed myself to phone.
  Clicks connected continents,
  seas rustled around deep wires.
 
  My call filled your empty room,
  its rings circled, then vanished.
  Outside sea made brilliant ropes,
  threading your closed shutters.

Deborah Freeman Manchester 1980

 

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