After the Op


I wake to the silence of home.

No beeps, no distant voices

in corridors, no professional footsteps.

Just the deep quiet of the countryside,

which unnerved me when we first moved

to the middle of nowhere, but now feels

centred and safe.  The birds warming up

for dawn.  Each note a bubble floating

into the light.  A chord that chimes

with the promise of a beautiful August day,

and I realise I have slept a sleep

so deep and delicious,

so free from the whisper of pain,

that I am filled with a strange kind of song.

No tune, no words,

just grateful.


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There’s been a plane crash

and I am one of the survivors

who make camps on a sheet of ice,

Antarctica perhaps.


There is a perfect circle cut in the snow.

I fall in thinking this is cold but it’s okay

but then suddenly I am being sucked

down and down at great speed

and it’s freezing but I’m thinking

I’ll just go with it when suddenly

it occurs to me but what about my little boy,

this is far too cold for him.


So I start desperately trying to swim back up,

it’s the most enormous effort

and then I realise I’m under the ice

and I need to find the hole if I’m to get out.


I hear someone talking on the phone

and I’m filled with rage because why

are they talking about me as if I’m not there

when I’m right here only I can’t open my eyes.


I wake with the most disturbing feeling

that this has not been a dream,

this actually happened to me

on an operating table in a hospital

where I came back from a place

that was colder than anywhere I’ve ever known.



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Cut the BS


If cancer is a gift

then I’d like the receipt please,

and as my mother said to me once,

it’s true you do learn a lot from this disease

but Jesus there are easier ways to learn things,

and I really appreciated my life any way,

even if I was guilty of not seeing this coming,

and I had plenty of other interesting topics to write about,

so didn’t really need the inspiration, and most of all,

it is not good for my son to break away from me

or become independent or learn to be a big boy now.

He is two years old, he needs his mother.

I know you mean well but you can take

this whole being positive lark

just a bit too far in my opinion.

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Reading the stripy pyjamas


I found the monster when I was crossing

the parking lot.  His diesel claws clicking

on sulphur.  You said you couldn’t smell it.

The tiniest lump of lemon tickled

my throat.  I was tempted to wipe the screen

sterile.  I went back to nothing, almost,

absolutely, definitely nothing.

It was the auburn anniversary

of a death I wish I had never seen.

The hospital doors were sore and bloodshot.

Eerily familiar. The sky promised

a soft summer of lemonade sherbet

sipped slowly.  She said I was lumpy.

She said she was sorry my mother died.


I knew then I was not imagining

the ghost of an x-ray. The creature aches.

Sometimes I think he’s left but he’s still there.

A fingerprint of an accusation.

Just scans.  She said best let go of Vegas,

best not to sit alone, best not to wait.

As many biopsies as you can take.

There’s a phrase I never wanted to hear.

The doctor smelt of peaches.  He nearly

apologised.  I swallowed

my bruises. I had drunk an iceberg.

We sat in the car and cried.

The beast ate the locks.  I tried to explain

we would need all of his teeth removed.


Strange that it took such savage dentistry

to taste that you love me. That the jungle

was all in my head.  Only the tiger

is real, though he sounds like the memory

of somebody else’s dream. His mouth wide.

He’s out there now, prowling along the ledge.

I wouldn’t say we were friends, I wouldn’t

say I’d invite him to tea, but there is

a puzzle to his beauty all the same.

A wildness. He has stripped us right back.

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You paint yourself blue,

all dinosaur prints

and the worry of trolls

eating farmyard goats.

I tell you the fences are strong,

even if the trolls offered good money,

the lady at the gate would never let them in.

You nod at the common sense of this.


I do not say how there is so much

that I cannot keep on the other side.

Not when there are tiny trolls

growing inside of me.  Their teeth

of uncertain sharpness and tests

still to be done to see if they will

stay under their bridges

or come creeping out at night

after the lights go out.


IMG_6118   IMG_6125

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There are stages,

gaps in knowledge.

Question marks

that catch in the throat.

The crocodile clock

that suddenly ticks louder for me.

The lost boys searching for their mother,

and those who do not hear

the mermaid’s song which murmurs

brave people die too,

brave people die too



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Not Cancer

This gallery contains 89 photos.

Just the possibility of an invasion. Soldiers on the border of surgery with their radiant smiles and bright green skin. Martians with ray guns. But apparently I am the patient and must not make jokes. I must sit in the … Continue reading

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What Were You Scared Of As A Child?


My mother barely let me watch television
and then only educational stuff like Sesame Street
that couldn’t possibly damage my young mind.
As a result, I had waking nightmares
that Cookie Monster was climbing out
of the TV set shouting ‘Cookies, Cookies’
and trying to shove me into the blue furriness
of his open mouth with the crumbs falling out.
The thought of those crumbs still makes me
feel slightly queasy. Fear is what we make of it.

When you were little, your mother pulled
the cushions off your eyes because
she was determined to demonstrate
that you were being ridiculous and there was
nothing remotely creepy about ET.
Everybody’s favourite Extra Terrestrial.
By twenty two, you completely agreed with her
and sat down to watch it again thinking
it was about time you got over this.
But the moment the ball rolled into the bushes,
you broke out in a cold sweat and switched it off.
Even now just a photo in a magazine
of that glowing finger makes you start in surprise.
Fear has no intention of phoning home.

When you were in bed, you saw the witch
from Snow White appearing at your window,
you heard Gollum whispering precious,
you felt the cold hands of China dolls
touching your face, you smelt zombies
breathing in your ear. You worried your aunt
would turn the sun off, you’d lose your Mum
at a party, that a hook would shoot up
from the pavement and drag you down and kill you,
that Santa would come into your room on Christmas Eve.
You feared that moment when the horse bolted
and the saddle slipped off, not the fall itself
but the moment you knew you were going to fall
before you hit the ground. People wearing masks
in shopping malls, the Chuckle brothers, the toilet monster,
being alone, dying unhappily, finding yourself far from home
when you lose your loved ones. Fear never grows old.

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The Waiting Room – the beginnings of an idea


A friend told me that when she first received a diagnosis of cancer, they locked the door and that’s how she knew it was bad news. This project is about opening those doors. We want to make an online creative space for those affected by cancer, those who work with them, and those who wish to connect. We will use video and interactive documentary in combination with poetry to talk about the impact of cancer on people’s lives. We will create digital gifts that you can send to someone you care about. We hope these gifts will be moving, funny, insightful and emotional. What they will not be is silent.

Here’s a poem about my first meeting with designer and film maker Kerry Bradley which hopefully gives a flavour of what we hope to achieve. If you would like to get involved or to know more about the project, please email Also check out my personal blog

Tea At The Landmark Hotel

We sit in a glass dome of piano playing
and afternoon tea. The scones so posh
I barely dare to eat them. You tell me
how your first memories are of worrying
that your mother would die,
how she was diagnosed when you were seven
and taken when you were twenty four.

These tales of trauma shimmer in the reflection
of the teapot. I spread the cream and thick scarlet jam,
remembering my own mother eating strawberries
in a garden with such intense relish
because she knew she had so little time left.

Some people think to speak of such things
is morbid. They shut themselves up
in the silence of their fears.
Yet the words of loss between us
make the sky above such an intense shade
of Autumn blue, I think perhaps
there is an art to kindness.

If only we let ourselves pour
the silver glitter from the spout,
drink the magic of grief
that knows we are all the ghosts
of guests haunting a hotel lobby,
admiring how the tea tray
catches a pool of sunlight.

by Aoife Mannix

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The beginning of something new.

Anorak are starting out on a new project to create an online creative space for those effected by cancer, those who work with them, and those who wish to connect; Using video and interactive documentary in combination with poetry to talk about the impact of cancer on people’s lives.

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