The Night

When I came to say good-bye that night,
Already you were drifting off
Beyond the realms of speech and sight
Or any common sight. Your cough
At last was silent; eyes half-closed,
Unseeing, yet I knew you heard,
Felt my kiss, without a word
Consented to let go. I dozed,

And slept for half an hour or so –
Awoke to words my sister said:
Come on – Mum died a few minutes ago.
And so we sat beside your bed
To say our last goodnight, and saw
Your thin neck taut and stretched with strain –
But all that gone now, and the pain
Was past, so you would cry no more.

Then while we had a cup of tea
The nurses wrapped you up, so small
And shrivelled, save the swollen knee
Where cancer broke the bone. And all
At once my flesh began to creep:
For in place of my comfortable mother
Was a sharp-nosed shape in white, quite other,
Which frightened me and took away my sleep.


©Virginia Rounding, 1989

First published in  The Eclectic Muse, Vol.4, No.3, Christmas 1994

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