Dedicated with love to the
memory of UA Fanthorpe
We first met when your last breath
cooled in my palm like an egg;
you dead, and a thrush outside
sang it was morning.
I backed out of the room, feeling
the flowers freshen and shine in my arms.
The night before, we met again, to unsay
unbearable farewells, to see
our eyes brighten with re-strung tears.
O I had my sudden wish –
though I barely knew you –
to stand at the door of your house,
feeling my heartbeat calm,
as they carried you in, home, home and healing.
Then slow weeks, removing the wheelchair, the drugs,
the oxygen mask and tank, the commode,
the appointment cards,
until it was summer again
and I saw you open the doors to the gift of your garden.
Strange and beautiful to see
the roses close to their own premonitions,
the grass sweeten and cool and green
where a blackbird eased a worm into the lawn.
There you were,
a glass of lemony wine in each hand,
walking towards me always, your magnolia tree
marrying itself to the May air.
How you talked! And how I listened,
spellbound, humbled, daughterly,
to your tall tales, your wise words,
the joy of your accent, unenglish, dancey, humorous;
watching your ash hair flare and redden,
the loving litany of who we had been
making me place my hands in your warm hands,
younger than mine are now.
Then time only the moon. And the balm of dusk.
And you my mother.
Mourning makes us retrace our encounters with others. We go back searching for signs, nurturing those moments of intimacy, tryng to notice light. This poem celebrates the life lived and still living, the love loved, and still loving.And even though Duffy now declares herself an atheist, there is a healing and a transcendence here which suggest our ability to love overwhelms even the banal paraphenalia and mechanics of death. There are ‘returns’ here and these returns of memory and emotion are as resurrecting as any tales from Galilee. The holding of hands, the grace of contact and the ‘dancey’ ‘ lemony’ uniqueness of a relationship unfinished and unfinished with.
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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