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Poetry by Stella Hervey Birrell - Edinburgh Poetry Magazine
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Published December 2, 2018

Poetry by Stella Harvey Birrell
(Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian, Scotland)

Sheela-na-gig to Birthing Partner
At a Gig in a Chapel
Waterstone's Coffee Shop, Friday Morning

Sheela-na-gig to Birthing Partner

by Stella Harvey Birrell

Listen.
Wait.
Yours is not today’s journey
and yours is not the centre of this day
or this night.

She calls to you
and you answer.
But she is travelling over a distance
that you can not cross

Stay with her
nourish her
show how the opening pulls.

Only if she tires,
doubts her intense strength,
remonstrate with her.
Then.
Listen.
Wait.

She may walk, kneel.
Or lean on you.
Or lean on another resting place,
or stand.
Stay with her.

This most ancient of rites
you cannot follow:
only witness.
Obey.
Listen,

and wait.



At a Gig in a Chapel

by Stella Harvey Birrell

Tangled knotted hair
patched coats with rips.
Baby’s face,
round,
sheen of adored.

Rhythmic
stapping on the floor –
church vibrating with energy
of each rippling measure.

Pews creak and rasp
under the baby’s shrieks and skirls.
As shadows turn themselves
inside out
on the wall.



Waterstone’s Coffee Shop, Friday Morning

by Stella Harvey Birrell

She crosses with precision
Over the space
I imagine a cats cradle
of her route,
a straight line curve
created by back
and forth
and back
and forth.
My pot, my milk the butter
A toasted teacake tonged into the toaster

Her hands, body, her voice
birdlike, fluted, more delicate
than the child
behind me in the buggy
with his Granny
More patient, more accurate.

Across the room, a man says
‘It lost its way in the end, the book,’
with all of the confidence of someone
who has never created for himself,
only judged.
His wife sits silent beside him
‘Joan Collins would sign anything.’ He says.

I balance my tall pile of tales
My cup, my teacake,
make myself as small as I can.
Let me disappear into this tiny bottle of milk,
into the steam from my cup,
fold shut into table and chair.

A teenager and her mother
arrive for quality time.
She chooses a smoothie
and the noise grates
a light dusting of blender over us.

They sit and scroll, on their phones,
and scroll and scroll,
and scroll. They don’t talk.
Smoothie is untouched.

And the granny says,
to the perfect child
from the buggy
dressed in blue and white stripe
‘Will we go now?
Will we go and see what else there is to do?


Biography
Stella Harvey Birrell: I am a writer and poet living in East Lothian, Scotland.
My first novel was published in 2016 and short pieces have appeared in
various places, including
The Guardian, The Ropes Journal, Frangipani
Journal
, and The Scottish Book Trust. I won the Glasgow Women's Library
poetry competition in 2017. I run a
weekly blog, and can be found on social
media:
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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