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'Whalelight' by Fiona Cartwright
Fiona Cartwright is a poet and post-doctoral conservation scientist (under her alternative identity of Fiona Sanderson). Her poetry concerns itself with the connections between the natural world and humans, particularly through childbirth, how close study of nature deepens them, and how women’s voices in articulating such connections have historically been ignored. Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and magazines, including Magma, Mslexia, Under the Radar, Envoi, Butcher’s Dog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Algebra of Owls, Atrium, Eyewear’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2018 and Paper Swans’ Chronicles of Eve.’. She is the winner of the 2019 Brian Dempsey Memorial Competition for a single poem (with "The Astronomer's Children", below) and has been commended or shortlisted in a number of other competitions, including Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition and Paper Swans Pamphlet Competition. Her pamphlet was a runner-up in the Mslexia/Poetry Book Society Women’s Pamphlet Competition 2018, described by Amy Wack, Seren Press, in Mslexia 81 as “a clever bracketing of the theme...about different sorts of gestation...achieved with astute vision and stylistic flair”.
The Astronomer's Children (Fiona Cartwright's winning poem in the 2019 Brian Dempsey Memorial Competition.)
She unstitches the planets
from where they hang in the sky,
lays them across the bed
where she sewed her son together.
As another forms in her belly,
she drapes him in a solar system birthed
from a nebula of thread.
Each tiny suture pins
the planets in their place, the way
a midwife’s stitch holds a perineum torn
by the seven moon-heads of her children.
She stretches the stars
beyond the limits
of the rectangular heaven she quilts
until she holds the cosmos
between her fingers.
It’s a perfect solar system
only seven years in the making.
She folds the galaxy back inside itself
for easy transportation, gravity
collapsing it down into her hands.