Rebecca Goss was born and grew up in Suffolk. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University and taught Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University for several years. Her first collection The Anatomy of Structures was published in 2010 by Flambard Press. Her second collection Her Birth (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection. She is now a full-time writer and lives in Suffolk.
Rebecca Goss’ first collection The Anatomy of Structures (Flambard Press, 2010) was praised for its ‘strangeness, sexiness and occasionally its yearning’ (Robert Seatter) but it was Her Birth (Carcanet, 2013) which drew the attention of the Next Generation judges. A fearless write and a heartbreaking read, the collection honours the poet’s baby daughter – not even eighteen months old when she died – with intense and crafted language, one precise and painful word at a time.
I knew what it meant, but that didn’t stop me:
I came home from clinic, early in her life,
sat on the stairs with my hardback Collins
solid as a baby on my knee, thumbed quickly
through papery leaves, whispering l, m, n, o, p,
to seek the word they said once
when discussing the flawed mechanics
of her heart. There, on a gauzy page,
its definition printed across shadows
of my fingers, I read ‘serving to palliate’,
(from Latin pallium, a cloak) and turned back
to find ‘palliate’ vb 1. to lessen the severity
of (pain, disease etc.) without curing
and I re-read without curing until curing
didn’t look like curing anymore,
it looked like curling and I clasped my hands
around my knees, pulled that book hard
against my gut. As a student I loved its reams
of indisputable fact, its ability to reveal
and make clear. Now I bury its bulk
on the shelves, swathe myself in hope.
I’ve been told of women in their eighties
who dial on birthdays, their story drawn
from the receiver in small damp breaths:
‘He would have been sixty’
and a voice wraps them in a blanket of vowels.
Somehow, a child has slipped from them.
They were unable to stop it, like sand collapsing
back down the hole, dug on that dry part of beach.
So extraordinary was your sister’s
short life, it’s hard for me to see
a future for you. I know it’s there,
your horizon of adulthood,
reachable across a stretch
of ordinary days, yet I can’t believe
my fortune – to have a healthy child
with all that waits: the bike, school,
mild and curable diseases.
So we potter through the weeks
and you relax your simian cling,
take exploratory steps, language
budding at your lips. I log the daily
change, another day lived
with every kiss goodnight; wake
relieved by your murmurs at dawn.
Come and hold my hand, little one,
stand beside me in your small shoes,
let’s head for your undiscovered life,
your mother’s ready now, let’s run.