When sleep comes the cortège stops by cairns,
tugs the silver cord, nearly always with ravens.
Only here, snapped back to white chairs, dew,
do I recover details—umbrella faces,
black suits, cousins, hatchbacks, clunk shut.
A day off school, same uniform, blazer apt.
Puce curtains close. Organ music. Brother’s hand
round my elbow. His only touch, never since.
Curtains shut, hymn books, mahogany pews,
priest’s robe. I knew nothing of the electric trolley,
nothing of the antechamber, ID tag, oven,
adjustment of gas, spray to prevent flashbacks;
nothing of the raking of ash, how it’s
the thigh-bone, the skull, that remain as cakes.
Uncle cowed by the casket, looking once, not long;
there scorched, already, the after-image.
Waking—on the wall, the hospice, curious
how they got her ring off, who that was, the ring
that dug its way in, what marriage meant. She said
they’d have to amputate, was the only way.
Who kept the book of condolence, sent light
to career through catkins, starring the eiderdown?
Her thoughts mended, there to remember us
by. She must hold this smile, her favourite
of three. Or might she actually forget?
As she went of course through walls, up and out.
I asked such naive questions, and was shown
a red admiral moored on a Volvo. ‘She’s there
returned.’ So soon, I thought. And what of us,
that limitless repertoire of love, was it stored
under antennae?, or was it circling somewhere
close?, or, unsaid till now, lost with her warmth.