This poem is taken from Stand 233, 20(1) May - July 2022.

Jenny Pagdin Three Poems
Hospital embroidery: after Lorina Bulwer*

I HAVE FELT WHAT DOCTOR GIDEON

FELT EVERY RING OF ME AND I

HAVE FELT IT AGAIN WHEN I HAD

BALLS SOME OF THEM IN HERE

CUT THEMSELVES WHEN I WAS

SMALL I SLEPT IN THE BATH COLD

TILES STAINED FLOOR EMPTY

SHAMPOOS ALWAYS SPAT OUT HIS

BITTER WHITE IT WAS GIDEON THE

WHOLE TIME BLACK HANDLED

CHAIN PHALLIC TAPS KNITTED

PENIS I THREW A PLANE AT ANNIE

THE PLANE SAID

COMPASSION



 * Lorina Bulwer, 1838–1912, was a mentally ill British embroiderer, incarcerated in a workhouse by her brother Edgar. Her embroidered letters, which can be up to 14 foot long, are set out in upper case with no punctuation.


Great Yarmouth Workhouse 1903

I HAVE WASTED TEN YEARS IN THIS DAMNATION

HELL FIRE TRAMP DEN OF OLD WOMEN OLD

HAGS NO YARMOUTH PEOPLE HERE. THE

OAKUM IS ROUGH AS IRON WOOL MY FINGERS

STIFF AND CALLOUSED BREAKFAST TO DINNER

BELL DINNER BELL TO SUPPER UNPICKING

SHORT USELESS THREADS AS STUBBY AS

PUPPIES TAILS IT WAS NOT ALWAYS THUS I WAS

APPEALING ONCE I WAS DEAR LITTLE LORINA,

SPELLING OUT C-A-T TO MOTHER WHO LOVED ME

A GREAT DEAL AND MRS DASHWOOD WHO

BOUGHT ME A MUSIC BOOK I STUDIED AT THE

BELGIAN SCHOOL I SHOWED PROMISE MY FINE

FINGERS FLOWED OVER THE IVORIES I HAD THE

ADMIRATION OF THE SCHOOLMISTRESS THE

VOICES GAROTTE ME ALL DAY UNTIL I UNWIND

THEM AND STITCH TEN YEARS NOW IN THIS

DAMNATION HELL FIRE TRAMP DEN


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