No Escape & Other Poems by Marie Herbert


She Wasn’t Ready Illustration by Clare Hansford words by Carmen Marcus

No escape

I wanted to save you
before you were born
when you were still safe inside
I could taste the paint on the walls
the fumes of the cars
so, I held my breath

but still
the bitterness
of the world lingered on my tongue
even though I kept my mouth shut tight.


A Newborn Mother
I sit on the bathroom floor counting hours
until you are home.

I sit in the middle of the church hall floor on padded mats
watch others drink coffee, chat and smile.

I fix my smile and sit on my hands
as strangers hold my baby and dance.

I stretch my eyes open wide to show I am in control and
wait on the sofa whilst he sleeps and

and I wonder what I should do.

I lie on the bed while he sucks in his sleep and
pray he’ll live until morning

as I catch his head.


of a mother
Can an unmothered mother mother her child?
Can an unmothered mother mother her mother
and child?
Can an unmothered mother mother her mother
or child?


Old pain as well as new

Your features contorted at the news
of your grandchild
growing inside me;
a competition you couldn’t win.

You shuddered at my excitement
at the kicks of life.
Your skin crawled while my skin stretched
and you turned away while I caught elbows, feet and fists.

I thought it could be different
once their fingers had held yours
but the third time
I couldn’t help but fill the pain of your silence
with my own.


A mother’s pledge
I will never be too busy
attending to the life around you
to notice the life inside you.


Washing your hair
Your silver hair parts
Your scalp pink and soft
Grateful and silent now
For a few moments
As you lean over the bath

I can see
My babies.


Marie Herbert is a teacher and mother of three. She has been writing for four years and recently completed an MA in creative writing. Her poetry explores how inherited trauma weaves a silent path through generations and impacts directly on mother and child relationships. She hopes the self knowledge and insight she gains through the act of writing will dilute its future impact.

Artist Statement about She Wasn’t Ready by Clare Hansford

A drawing about waiting. Waiting for what seemed to be the most frightening experience of my life. Nothing seemed to be ready, everything still in boxes. I unwrapped nothing, not a single vest or even the pram. So afraid that something would go wrong, too taken in by the horror stories I was being told by other mothers or insensitive magazine articles. Frozen in time, afraid for the future, but begging the universe for the wait to end. Arms yearning to hold my baby.

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s