Ellen Storm

Writing the White and Purple Coats


Santa’s Letter to the Children


I am not watching you tonight, because

I respect your autonomy, and I am not God.

I will fill your stockings, whatever you do,

because all children are equally valuable –

equally deserving of love, and gifts.

In fact, sometimes the most badly behaved

are most in need of presents, and love.

I do not believe in coercion, or subtle control.

Learn what it means to steer your own sleigh

and know that you are worthy

of good fortune and the attention of others.

I want you to look forward with hope

to the long-awaited morning, not fear it being

taken away by someone in power by virtue

of greater physical size or magical ability.

Particularly for those of you whose bodies

are not yet fully functional – you cannot walk

for example, or feed or dress yourselves –

I will not punish you for small acts of defiance

or sensory exploration. If you make noise

or mess, that’s fine. If you have angry feelings,

or are hurting, that’s also fine. Let me know

your hearts’ desires: I am not a mind-reader

but I want to hear you. I am listening carefully.

Help me make your dreams come true.




‘One Better Day’


Bad memories grow like tumours,

slowly over time and with each retelling:

space-occupying lesions in a finite cranial vault.


In the end there is no remaining volume

for the mundane: how we used to go to the park

and you would read the Guardian, or Günter Grass.


How you made herring salad on Christmas Eve,

and liked bratwurst – but still agreed to eat Sosmix

when I became a vegetarian.


How you washed your vinyl like a baby,

in a tub of soapy water: played Limahl’s ‘Neverending Story’;

Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’, and we would have a bop.


How you used music to say things you didn’t know how to say –

feel things you didn’t know how to feel:

‘Heart of Gold’ by the Kinks; ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers.


How you turned your poisons into medicine:

worked first at Phoenix House, then Arlington

of Madness fame. Took me to both of them.


How tenderly you cleaned the spokes of your bike,

taught me to remove an inner tube;

mend a puncture in that same washing-up tub.


Now when I imagine I’m the swallow of the road,

I wonder if the old Dawes gave you

that same rush of freedom?


Most of us grow up – meet our parents again

as if for the first time, as adults: get to know them,

perhaps, for who they really are.


You denied me that opportunity

(I won’t hold it against you – I know you didn’t mean to):

the chance to discover you in coffee shops


in December, when we might have hugged – forgiven –

wandered through markets drinking glühwein and talking

about literature, politics, and peace.


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