Jane Simpson

Holding her

My father hands me my red UK
birth certificate. I am 21.

He says it is my right
now I am of age.

I hand my father the birth certificate
he has never seen, never thought he could. 

When he was 24 his mother gave him
an affidavit with his date

of birth and name – no
father, no mother 

a document sealed 
at the lawyers 

with his marriage certificate 
and will my mother 

determined should be opened
only after his death.

My father is now 94.
I hand him his birth certificate.

Silence was the price he paid to secure 
his marriage, kept it except to those

who had a right to know – 
mortgage and life assurance companies. 

My mother died seven years ago.
My father is holding more than she ever knew – 

his mother: her name, 
their place, the date;

his bursting into the world to be given 
three weeks later into

another mother’s 

a marriage

a bonding 	a binding
a stole wrapped	around hands
after    the vows

an oath	        to silence
the price	of marriage
the in-laws	exacted

lies told	        to those you love
a fur coat 	round her shoulders
for him a cloak	of respectability

Poem about a poem

this poem spits tacks
this poem rages and rants

it has language
Genetic Risk Assessment

it has blood and gall
calling for a test

substituting strong verbs for
polysyllabic nouns

nine years on bilateral prophylactic salpingo-
oopherectomy trips off my tongue

cheating death 
by 90%

now I want the BRCA1 
the BRCA2

do or die 
mutuation test


Jane Simpson, a Christchurch-based poet and historian, has two full-length collections, A world without maps (2016) and Tuning Wordsworth’s Piano (2019), and a world-first liturgy, The Farewelling of a Home. Her poems have appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, London Grip, Allegro and in leading journals in New Zealand and Australia.
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