Carol Ann Duffy
(Published in The Guardian, Saturday 2 May 2009)
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.
A poem about her dead mother from the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and read by her @ King’s Place, with steady gaze and major emotional impact…. travelling back in time through a whirlwind of devastatingly ordinary images that so often tell the story of the dying and the living..of the love and the loss..tracing back from the final weeks of commodes and the paraphernalia surrounding final, painful leavetakings,way back to the happier days of familiar movement, talk and proffered glasses of wine in a spring garden ..and yes for me , this resonates .. such a good poem from such a great poet.
King’s Place offers music, poetry readings (I also heard Seamus Heaney read here), conversations with interesting people (Fiona Shaw was excellent) in a comfortable space that isn’t too large, so the atmosphere is fairly intimate and the acoustics are good, as befits a venue primarily concerned with musical events. Check out their current programme: http://www.kingsplace.co.uk/
and don’t forget to sit outside by the canal with a coffee or a glass of wine, before the event.