This poem is for Esther, it's about before she was born. In those days Newham Maternity Hospital put the fear of God into anyone pregnant. Lots of girls brought their Mums with them to ante-natal clinic, not for old wives tales but because they were frightened they'd be bullied, humiliated and forced to subject intimate parts of their bodies to bullying, indifferent complete strangers. I saw enough to make me tell porkies to my GP, then deliberately leave it so late in labour that when the midwives heard I needed one, I couldn't be removed to Newham Maternity, but the baby was delivered at home.

Since transporting to London we've been
buttered in the 'tweendecks
of high-rise blocks
with a B-grade heart (like milk
left out on a hot day?) another
baby on the way they say, I wonder
how we'll survive, or realise, our future?

I assert my day is work, though I don't work
in London's libraries, laboratories,
nor, like those towers, scan the radiobright airs:
I can still think
I write Greek letters in between the washing lines and posts
compute Tan: Theta and Pythagoras... So what?
Asks nagging doubt.

My apron swells. They say
“There's more than you ate inside your belly.”
Although I sicken at fried onion smells,
I eat rich cake,
at midnight, peg my rotting washing out.
Bad-toothed old Mr Gomez tried to touch me up
then broke into our flat.

Newham Maternity has flip flap rubbery doors;
“I used to love frightful women from enormous districts
Where several new beings were born every day”
writes Appollinaire. It ought to be above the door.
I sat in the nearest space and crossed my knees,
got overlooked. Went beetroot red.
Looked at my feet on the concrete. Waited. Waited.

Deep, parcelled in brown plants, the railway cutting
yawned beneath superstructural lighting,
trains in the cutting chuckle
with an underwater noise of stones, approaching.
Two Grandpa railwaymen noticed my condition
praised me. I stared inside my ragged-haired reflection
and watched the dusty seats repeat ad infinitum.

Tomorrow's world bulged my coat
and hurt. Streetlights switched on
a thin red radiance, watermelon juice.
The midwife bent over my bed: “Look love,
co-operate? Your baby's being born” she said.
I heaved and was delivered
of nine pounds hot nakedness strung out like sausages,
a living female infant.
I am very, very careful
over roads and with high windows, now.
Cockneys in shalwar kemeezes smile
comparing babies: “Ah, you had a girl!”