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Joanna Dobson on 'Shaela' from Stephanie Green’s Flout
[HappenStance, 2015]

The hospital lights are harsh and her face is drained of colour. She lies foetal on the trolley, clutching her knees to ease the pain in her stomach and I am standing helpless beside my baby, my baby who is eighteen now and will soon be off to university.

The doctors don’t know what is causing the cramps but I think I could cure it. I could wrap her tightly in a handknitted Shetland blanket, the kind they call a ‘hap shawl’. I could carry her to a lochside and rock her beside the water, watching the stars come out while she drifted asleep. I have been in the place that ‘Shaela’ comes from.

The speaker in ‘Shaela’ is knitting a shawl so fine she can pull it through her wedding ring in a swoop like the sliding and circling of the crying seals. Is it air or wool, this gossamer shawl, and where does each seal begin and end? ‘At the dead time, when the world’s asleep’, she and her child are completely alone: she has given him her breast and who can say where she ends and he begins?

I too have cradled my babe at the dead of night, when the world was asleep and the house was breathing deep and slow. There in my arms, she lacked nothing she needed.

Now I stand uselessly on the scuffed linoleum, and the glaring lights illuminate the rupture between us. Others have what she needs now. The doctors decide to whip out her appendix and soon she will be off on the road she has chosen

I want her to leave and I want her to stay, my moon-gazer bairn, and who can tell where the joy ends and the mourning begins?