Tuesday Poem: ‘The Day the Doctor Came’ by Siobhan Harvey

The Day the Doctor Came

The Day the Doctor Came

His face was a watch worn
on the underside of the wrist,
closer to the pulse.

His hair was a hat shaped
from the fleece of karakul sheep.

His body was a blue box.

His fingers and toes were stories
spun out               across centuries and space
like schools of molecules, stars.

To everyone else, he looked like
a relief teacher, a man,
an alien in a woman’s world;
but to Cloudboy, he was
the origin of everything, a portal
into dimensions unexplored.

Regenerated, Cloudboy became
a boy, simply a boy.

Together alien and companion travelled
to Bowie Base One, the Delirium Archive,
Krop Tor and Raxacoricofallapatorius.

Wherever, they conversed about
the Blinovitch Limitation Effect,
meeting the Teselecta, Cleopatra,
Churchill, Van Gogh, Marilyn Monroe,
the resurrected Master, the Empty Child …

and yes, Luke Howard, his letter to Goethe,
the drift of his classification of clouds:
Cumulus is a nest alive with new song;
Cumulonimbus is a hive buzzing with electricity …

When the boy became too excited,
the alien ran him around the field.

And when the afternoon bell rang,
the alien vanished, turning the boy back
to sky, to difficulty, to trouble, to troubled.

(c) Siobhan Harvey

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harvey-launch-invitation-for-emailing_page_1I asked Siobhan Harvey to share a new poem from her collection, Cloudboy, because I deeply admire this poet for her words and her passion and her vision. Her poetry is both personal and universal. And I’m touched she also took time to share her thoughts on the poem as well.

If you’re interested in reading more about Siobhan’s journey as a mother of an extraordinary boy, please see this beautiful essay she wrote — which also happened to be shortlisted for the 2013 Landfall Essay Contest.

The poet’s commentary on ‘The Day the Doctor Came’:

Along the fortunate journey I have taken in and since winning the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry, one of the most enjoyable and stimulating was working with editor Emma Neale to ready the prize winning manuscript into Cloudboy, the book. Emma, I humbly suggest, is one of the finest poets writing in New Zealand today; her work constantly inspires, amazes and sustains me. As a fellow mother, and one additionally of boys, she understood the terrain of Cloudboy from the off. As editor, her advice, questions and suggestions were always considered and astute. One of the most enriching for the collection, I think, was that more interaction was needed between the collection’s protagonist, ‘Cloudboy and male figures. In this vein she asked me if there might be an unwritten poem – perhaps a few lines lying idly un- or under-developed in my notebook – which might be crafted into a poem connecting ‘Cloudboy’ with a male authority figure. By happenchance, there was.

For a long time during the development of the manuscript two male authority figures had ghosted my considerations and my writing drafts. One was a remembrance – a male teacher who relieved my son’s class for a few days. In the feminised environment of primary school, I noticed how different, how heartening this relief teacher’s attitude and care towards my son had been. Not for this teacher the draconian punitive actions of female teachers at my son’s school: 100 lines; the ‘naughty’ circle; a red card leading to immediate expulsion from the classroom. No, for this male relief teacher, exercise was the instruction; and so, whenever my son’s ADHD got the better of him, he was walked around the school field or allowed to go and dance in the rainy playground. And, during those few short days of male academic enlightenment, my son’s behaviour, labelled as wilful and malicious by his primary teacher disappeared.

The second male authority figure (or perhaps I should say, figures, all eleven of them) who played such an active and inspiration part in my son’s life during his time at his first primary school was Doctor Who. In a creative nonfiction companion piece to the poetry collection, Cloudboy, entitled ‘A Boy Called Cloud’, which was Highly Commended in the 2013 Landfall Essay Competition and subsequently published by Miami University Press I posited that the reason why my son held such a passionate fixation for Doctor Who during this time was that the main and secondary characters and the storylines in this series were portals, wormholes which transported my son to situations where his esoteric and inventive imagination were validated and adored. For my son, watching Doctor Who was akin to his looking in a mirror, was akin to seeing himself – his obsessions and interests – reflected vividly back.

In combining the male relief teacher who for a few days and the Time Traveller who for years visited my son into one amalgamated being, in seeing their similarities and extremes and affinities through the lens of my son’s eyes, I had a new poem, ‘The Day the Doctor Came’ fit for the collection.

If you are in Auckland on Friday, 16 May, please make a point to attend the launch of Cloudboy. It will be well worth the trip.

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Siobhan Harvey author photoSiobhan Harvey is the author of the poetry collection, Lost Relatives(Steele Roberts, 2011) and the book of literary interviews, Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers in Discussion (Cape Catley, 2010). She is also the editor of Our Own Kind: 100 New Zealand Poems about Animals(Random House, 2009). Her poems have recently appeared in Asheville Poetry Review (US), Best New Zealand Poems, Five Poem Journal (Ned),LandfallStand (UK), Structo (UK) and Turbine 12. She was runner-up in the 2012 Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize (Aus), 2012 Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition, 2011 Landfall Essay Prize and 2011 Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems, and nominated for the 2011 Pushcart Prize (US). She has a Poet’s Page on The Poetry Archive (U.K.), here: Siobhan Harvey.

 

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Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. At the TP hub this week, you’ll find a fabulous poem by Jean Sprackland, posted by Hub Editor Kathleen Jones, plus poems by the various TP collective members.  Look down the left-hand sidebar and click on each one to see their weekly contributions.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.

 

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