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Susan Butler: a poem

After cataract surgery

Daily she wakes to the infinite variations

clouds play on the sun, the sliver of light

between blind and wall no longer

a slur of soft pastel but sharp

as a quartz vein through a cobble,

bright as the bowl of the half scallop

she picked from the beach in Clachtoll.

She sees the jut of the light switch,

its small hooked shadow, the unblinking

screws on either side, how it has the look

of an owl, how when someone crosses

the landing the door flaps, briefly supplies wings.

She tests the bad eye, the nicotine sheen

that persists, remembers their first home,

smoke-stained cupboards that even

three scrubbings could not make clean,

closes that eye to make all bright again.

A three millimetre incision, narrow

as a baby tooth. Her vision become

falls of sari silk, surf breaking turquoise

in the sun, light splintered, gathering,

soft and precise as haw frost.

Sue Butler grew up a convent-educated Catholic and studied medicine in the time of Women's Liberation and of having it all: husband and sons, a career in General Practice – which was the inspiration for her debut pamphlet Learning from the Body, published by Yaffle Press. In retirement she took up walking and writing and has been published in the Hippocrates Prize Anthology 2020, in One Hand Clapping and on the Poetry and Covid site.

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