Tears at evening prayers – they weren’t mine:
hot and strange as the skin I slipped outside
looking on at you looking on at grief staged
with crystal tumblers waiting for whisky
and anecdotes told by White Rabbits.
A hollow Alice sparkling faint hears
too late of a woman who was and was not
you – a woman I had never met, introducing me
to my own mother – Mads, Maddy, Madeleine.
White paws on my arm, mouths move
catching words too long after they’d been said
words I might have said – not yet conscious you’d come
back and back again for me – not yet conscious of how I should
have loved you as I tried to love you while I had the chance.
Time of death: 1.30. Two days after Christmas tinsel
draped round beds and paper crowns discarded –
Such a shock, the chorus said –
only you’d been preparing us for thirty years
waited until we’d stopped waiting
living by your broken clock
tip toes in
Through the cemetery under winter sun,
noting headstones on the way, names
ten, twenty years engraved, reopening
lives we can only just begin to grieve
whose absence we’ve only just begun
to feel, a fresh coffin lowered
in the milky light.
The Athenian Women make grief seem grand work
not this vague sense of no – the hovering not yet – not
yet before I’ve loved you as I should have loved you
while I had the chance.