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Poetry of Loss in Lockdown

The background to this is an everyday tragedy. My Dad died last year at the beginning of lockdown. I've been struggling with putting words out there ever since and though I've been building a project around grief and hope, sometimes both those emotions seem like actions I can hardly raise the energy to take.


We are all stuck in this together but we also have our own paths to walk. Mine has been that of a hermit crab, at times crawling out into the sunshine at others scrambling into the privacy of my locked down cave-shell. And in this private space, I've been writing - two novels, one ready for submission another in early form, as well as shorts and other novel ideas. They take time and nurture which can seem an anathema to our fast-paced publish-all-now world.


A poem to me is a microcosm of a story that hasn't been expanded but compressed, a captured moment like a photograph of emotions.


But words do nothing when hidden and unread, so I'm sharing these in grief and also hope that the reader might enjoy.



When you are a song in a lonely kitchen.


Dad watched the birds on the bird table (he loved it);

I was incredulous and bored.


Now I watch the parakeets, wood pigeons, one heron;

(you would love it Dad).


A pair of goldfinch (goldfinches?) hop onto my patio;

I decide it is a message from the heavens.


Rachel Sambrooks 2021


Of Jumping over waves


We were jumping over waves before he left,

with adventure and risk in his bones

Dad and brother drag me over them,

And as a small child I am flotsam in the water


Until the tide turned and we were too far out, too far

I wasn’t waving, I was drowning – I was actually drowning.

My brother and father away above me as I shouted to stop.


Because my legs were too small, keep trying, keep pushing,

we had our feet on the floor and then

Not,

suspended in mid-water floating under the sea

the surface above me and below

mermaids and spirit forms


strong arms shoved me further down,

they didn’t want me there: I was sunk.

I would leave rather than fight them.


But they weren’t pushing, they were pulling me up

My Dad’s strong grip dragging me to the surface,

all of a moment, suddener than sudden, sodden

we were on the beach and I was drowned, they thought.


Lifeguards checking my lungs for water,

but I didn’t breathe it in.


I had lost my breath under the waves,

I had held on through the burn


Rachel Sambrooks 2021



If you find some connection with these words please do let me know and visit @lossinlockdown on Facebook to find out more about the upcoming exhibition of words and pictures.


This series of poems has been developed as part of a joint project for Arts Network Sutton with artist Jo Sharpe.


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