Ellen Storm

Writing the White and Purple Coats

Poetic Celibacy, and the Hippocrates Book of the Heart


Well, after a long period of poetic celibacy, my poem ‘Stoning Cherries’ has been published in the Hippocrates Book of the Heart… and it feels good!

Edited by my old friends Wendy French, Michael Hulse and Donald Singer, the Hippocrates Book of the Heart brings together “what the poets say about the heart” and “what the medical professionals say about the heart”._

I have a lot to say about the heart with both hats on, so it was a bit bittersweet to be classified as a poet in this context. I rather liked it though, and I’m writing again, so maybe the ancient curse is finally broken…??

‘Stoning Cherries’ is a poem about my dad, who died last year. So it’s a poem close to my heart, and one that deals with the heart from a more typically poetic viewpoint, although some of the imagery is anatomically inspired.

Of course, if you want to read it, you are going to have to buy the book. But I submitted several poems for consideration and I thought some of the others were a bit okay too.

So here’s something completely different: a poem with a medical hat on!


referred cardiac pain what does it feel like


“Afferent nerves from the skin and heart converge

at the first four thoracic vertebrae

of the spinal column”.

The brain gets in a muddle

about where the signals are coming from.


But what does it feel like:

this new pain I have

that I never notice the start of, but become

suddenly aware is present

like waking into daylight?


The one that comes on in the heat

(that oil-slicked summer in Greece),

when vessels in my skin dilate?

Coolant shifts to the surface

like it does in the back of a fridge.


The one that comes on like an after dinner mint:

dark fourth course that sits

bitter on the tongue, as blood

pools in my intestines

and the stupor sets in?


The one that comes on in the morning

when you get over-excited

and throw yourselves about, giggling,

and won’t put your shoes on and I know

it’s all going to end in tears?


The one that starts

in the folds of my heart –

spreads like butter to my shoulder –

follows arteries like rivers:

carotid, brachial.


The one that keeps me awake,

not because I have it but because

the thought of not being here for you

makes me curl round the knot in my guts

like somebody’s put a boot in

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