The Wolf’s Bite


creative Partner Naomi Gryn

reader Polly Kemp

editor Julia Pascal

I want this child
Week twenty four
What’s wrong with the skin on my hands?
What’s wrong with my lungs?
My kidneys?
Am I dying?
Something is attacking me!
Help me!
Lupus they call it.
The wolf.
That’s what lupus means
The rash on the face
Back in 1230
They thought it was from a wolf’s bite
That’s a long time ago
They tell me
‘Madam you have lupus
It is very dangerous
Better that this child is not born.’

In Sri Lanka
Life is good
I think we have everything
But we have nothing.
Look! I have a house
It is my dowry
I am a successful lawyer in Colombo
One of the first of three women
In a world of men
Life is good
Not good enough
What must we do?
Leave Sri Lanka
Go to England.
Find a doctor to help me.
Help me!

They say all immigrants start at the bottom
But at the border the guard asks me
‘Why have you a visa?
You were born here.
Madam, you are British’.
Yes, I am British.
So why do I feel like an immigrant?

I must forget
Colombo, and the life we lived.
I am in a grotty Shepherds Bush bedsit
The reason is clear.
In Britain the doctors will help me
Help me have a child.
‘Sorry madam.
There’s no cure for lupus’.
No cure for wanting children.
There’s no cure for being an immigrant either
Even if you were born here.

‘Let’s go out husband!
Hyde Park is free!
Museums are free!
Galleries are free!
Squares without too much sun, I like that!’
Let’s go out to forget we are not in a lovely house in Colombo
That we live in a basement
In Shepherds Bush
That we will never have children.

I must work.
An assistant in family law
No longer assistant state attorney.
But I am working.
Oh how I miss my garden
Mango, guava, banana trees
Picnics on the beach
Drives to the tea plantations in the hills where it is always cool.
I must transport Sri Lanka to London.
My tea cabinet with brass inlay.
It was my grandmother’s
Chairs with woven rattan backs
I can touch fragments of Colombo
from the old life
I can’t transport the guava, the bananas, the mango
But you can buy those in the street from men with dark skins
Standing daylong at a wooden stall
But the taste is not the same.
And I still have no child.
Three lost in Sri Lanka
Two in London
It’s the antibodies inside me that do it
They go into overdrive
Why can’t they cure lupus?
Each loss and I am so empty.Instead of a son
A daughter
Only the wolf inside
And still no cure
I made my peace with having no child
But, in the future, when I see God face
When I stare him in the eye
I am going to ask him


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