Rosemary McLeish reads her own work, Skeleton

Rosemary McLeish is an outsider artist and poet living in Kent. She started writing poetry seriously at the age of 52 after her eldest brother, the writer in the family, died. She is a prize-winning author who has published widely in journals and anthologies, both in print and on-line. Her first collection “I am a field” was published by Wordsmithery in February 2019 and her second “Defragmentation” in March 2020. Rosemary is currently working on a third collection. Further details can be found on her website,



The skeleton of a blue whale, called “Hope”,
is suspended over the hall of the museum,
dominating everything.  I marvel at its
stupendous size, its delicate symmetry,
its grace, and wonder what my bones
will look like when I’m dead.  I’ve seen
the flares on CT scans, read the grim reports,
but never looked up images of what ails me.
This feathery, fragile, honeycombed
beauty is not what I expected.  I thought
of growths, Elephant Man-like spurs
and gross misshapes, excrescences.
I cannot power through krill, mouth
agape, eating as I go.  I need to protect
my frailty for fear of breaks, not even
a dip in the local pool.  But I can at least
stop a while, contemplate these ever-
changing patterns from dense to filigree,
as ephemeral as spiders’ webs, frost
fairies on winter windows, the tracery
of bare branches against a grey sky;
or notice how the frills and furbelows
are so like those of underwater lives,
the blue whale’s home, of sea anemones,
sponges, coral.  There’s an odd kind of
strength in fragility, as powerful in its
way as this great leviathan of our age.
We spend our lives picking and choosing
amongst what nature offers us,
but we need, I need, to embrace it all.
Cancer, making lace out of my bones,
traces all the beloved patterns of my life.

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