Bed, Georgia GildeaThe jacket is filled with a monochrome photo of the rumpled sheets and pillowcase of (presumably) a bed. One third down in large bold lowercase italics, the title: bed. The author's name is about two thirds down, in a slightly ornate font, small caps, pale blue. At the foot of the jacket the logo for V. press also inside a blue oval. All text is centred.

V.Press, 2023    £6.50

Present tense

A reference to the present tense, roughly half-way through this sequence of untitled poems about being hospitalised, emphasises what illness is like on the inside:

because of the pressured present tense
we forget that we ever


brothers and sisters and mothers and dogs
worried-looking teachers

Georgia Gildea shows us how the future is unimaginable and the past is lost, too far back to be remembered. Even family relationships vanish; the unrelenting pressure of coping with daily bodily demands push them aside. Time is pitiless and everything is in the present, here and now and painful. She is writing about eating disorder (her own, plus some pen sketches of other patients) but her consistent use of present tense takes every reader into how this confinement feels right now:

we are penned in

curdled in milk and juice
wrapped in pastel colours

Days no longer have names, nor do colours. They are undifferentiated. The more I look at what is in these poems the more I start to see what’s missing.

I don’t know where better is

or whether I want
to go there

Illness has no timescale, no certainties other than the immediate present and shrunken surroundings. This is set up from the opening lines —

imagine a life pared down to a spoon
a frightened face bounced back

single image in
a bended mirror

— and as we read on, the constraint becomes apparent. Although we are instructed to ‘imagine’, Gildea’s use of language holds us in small trapped spaces, making that instruction redundant. We feel the pressure and limits:

this is daylight windowsill curtain morning bed

sheets and twisted limbs still
in the night

this is daylight windowsill

sweat and beating heart pale blue the shallows
of my breath

The final poem is still in the present tense, with life as precarious as what has gone before:

Leaving hospital —

we don’t step out into

a kinder world

or even one that’s well

the air is full
of casual
little harms

Spacing, the short lines: whatever the future will be like, it won’t be easy. Isn’t easy.