Whelks is an ugly word

when they are a collective noun

of chinking that nestle her neck;

tiny roosting birds

in a camouflage of greys

on a red string of hope.


Her breathing is stridor, fractured.
Her clavicles fragile as wishbones


Here is the cold compress,

here the father’s slow caress

of forehead, forearms, fingers

while the mother gowpens feet

that have not yet walked, her mouth

moving round old words.


barely rising, barely falling

while the whelk-shells chingle


The awl lies on the night-stand.

His palm is raw. Four days now, of

twin holes in each thick-lipped home.

Outside, the rain tries to wash

the smashed three days

from the back of the axe.


a scuttling of brief chimes

between each dog-bark-cough.


Where the sea sucks at limpets,

fresh whelks are walking

their one-legged way into

the next day’s charm, and,

perhaps, a sea-salt sound

of slightly deeper breaths.


About Char March

Char March is a multi-award-winning poet, playwright and short fiction writer. Her credits include:  five poetry collections, six BBC Radio 4 plays, seven stage plays and numerous short stories in anthologies and literary magazines. She has featured on BBC TV and radio. She’s been Writer-in-R…Read more

Website: http://www.charmarch.co.uk

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One Response to “Charm for croup”

  1. Jodie Hawkes

    I really like this, the words of the poem stick in my throat. It brings back memories of taking my own daughter to the hospital in Tasmania…
    She has Croup. She can hardly breath. I’ve left it a bit too long. I should have brought her here sooner. I thought a bottle of over the counter cough mixture would work. The doctor screws her face up at the bottle. I feel bad. My daughter is floppy. My hands are shaking. I sit in the waiting room watching an Australian game show. I feel guilty that I’ve been working whilst my brother was watching her. They give her a shot of steroids. The old man in the opposite hospital bed is wired up to all sorts of machines. They don’t close the curtains here, he looks at us and we look at him. The nurse asks him if he has any family she can call, he says my brother is dead, and what about the rest of your family, no I don’t see them. She repeats loudly over and over again the instructions for how many times he should take the medication. I think we all know he isn’t listening. He has no where to live. We stare at each other silently. My brother who is with me puts on two silicon gloves, hides bedind the next cupical and does a puppet show for my daughter. My brother eats all the sandwhiches provided and the rest of the green jelly.


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