Caron Freeborn- New Poetry

Caron Freeborn 1966-2020

Caron Freeborn 1966 – 2020


When I was a little girl I worried about infinity –
there’s a galaxy beyond this one and then beyond that one and beyond that and beyond that
and beyond that and beyond that and beyond that and beyond-
until my daddy told my mum I had to go the doctor.


Dr Thacker had a colour telly and smoked big funny ciggies wrapped up loose
smelt remember remember the fifth of November
pressed inside your noona if your tummy hurt
or you’d got some nerves in your head until
Lisa’s mum took him to the judge for what he did
to the beautiful lady in the wheelchair
(though I didn’t know what it was)
and I never thought much about infinity after that
but I did wonder – a lot – how it felt to be beautiful.


I never worried about all the forevers with you
because I was long cured.


My tongue furred with I could’vewould’veshould’ve
but I scrubbed it out with Dettol like my nan ignored
the foul metallic smell.


I watched you go got on a train went to prison to see Dr Thacker
to remind my heart how to


I never figured out how it feels to be beautiful.


The man who isn’t dead 

In the doctor’s for a smear
I glimpse him: grunting
wheelchair-bound grin
too big snorted face.
A pity for his daughters,
if they are his daughters.

And then I see the man
beneath.  I know him, I say,
grabbing a daughter’s sleeve.
I know you, I tell him, trying
to meet his eye.  His look
droops, slides.  It isn’t a gaze.

You don’t, she says.
Not this him.
You don’t.

Oh, those useless fingers once-
strong inside me.  That lolling
Polish tongue that savaged me with
come and all the world’s words and
want, with want.  With want.

The daughter/nurse, the one who talks,
calls him naughty.
My heart attacks itself.


 Things I should have done by now

I have never inhaled;
I have never even not-inhaled;
I have never tangoed under Argentinian sun
or even in Blackpool come to that;
my orgasms have been single
thoughtful and without abandon –
gay or otherwise –
and I have never had anal sex
nor wanted to – Marlon Brando can keep his
Lurpak and don’t talk to me about
enemas.  Just don’t.

And I have never cut up prose
with pinking shears to abstract
tapestry and tortured stitches
into different measure.

I have never
known one of the world’s hottest
chillis developed in
Lincolnshire by Nick Woods.
I have been to Lincolnshire
but have never eaten
not once.

And yet here is smoke,
thick and blue and
glutinous, held in my lungs.
You reach in (no Marlon Brando), wind it on spiky
fingers, swallow it
down.  It’s sweet, you say, light as this heart.
(I’m not sure whose heart, and don’t like to ask)
And at last you give me a blow-back,
chillied with desire (I’m not sure whose desire)
and this, you say, this is your poem.
(           )
I’ve never even asked for a fucking poem.

How she discovered her type

Well, the type of man she wanted
wasn’t gay.  She now knew that much.
Those men who need you to whip them
and hold their hands (gently, softly)
and tell them it doesn’t matter
when – frankly – it fucking does.
The in-denial men whose submission
is thin as an envelope.
She posted that one home.

Her type wasn’t artistic.  Thin men who
ink your soul but choke on words,
who paint you into a corner
who go over the lines
whenever (and this is often) they stroke their pen.
The shifting-focus men whose oils
are thicker than their blood.
She scribbled that one out.

There was one man she loved
and he loved her back
but in the middle of a war
he took a bride
so that was that.
She sent them a wedding gift
(didn’t even much poison the robe).

And then she spotted him,
through the telescope she’d been given
by the astrological society.
Younger.  Sweeter (he tasted of acacia).
Scored through with the damage of earth
and mortal lives, but intact,
still intact.
At least, he was.


Screenshot 2019-03-15 at 20.57.03


We listen.
You with your cider, me with my scotch.
We say
It’s been a long time coming,
this companionable hearing, this cosy
voyeurism: through the marriages,
restraints, deaths; through the bruises,
tatters, in vain.  But we’re better off
than poor Peter White though we don’t say so.

Most of the words we have said
have been to others.

There are so many years in our pockets
we daren’t stride out into the water.

Yet there is this, there is something:
we have what is left of each other.

About the contributor

Caron Freeborn was a novelist and teacher who also wrote occasional education journalism. Her first novel, Three Blind Mice (Abacus, 2001), was described in the Independent as ‘brilliantly written in the vernacular, this complex book explores family, status and love’. Her second, Prohibitions (Abacus, 2004), was called ‘an illuminating narrative on the extremes of human emotions’ in the Big Issue; her third novel is a re-working of a Greek tragedy. The eldest of her two children had Autism Spectrum Disorder and she dealt with an adult who had this condition in her work. She was increasingly concerned to raise awareness of ASD, from involvement in the launch of Simon Baron-Cohen’s Transporters DVD in America to finding ways of incorporating discussions of theory of mind into her fiction and her teaching. Caron taught English at Cambridge University for many years, specialising in the Tragedy Paper, and more recently had been teaching creative writing for the Open University. She also ran workshops with the poet Elizabeth Speller, and was involved with the Women’s Word Festival at Cambridge.

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