I sit and hold her hand as night draws in. Crickets call, a bat lands clumsily outside the window, in the Tulip tree. A siren like a bird laments from far away.

curlew cry
an ambulance maps the streets
with sound.

She is dying. I watch her journey into the silent land . Her pulse falters.

Moonlight flickers shadows on the eaves.

She has a plain gold wedding ring which has worn a little ridge into her finger. Her hand is soft but firm, the nails well tended, the pads on her palm developed from constant work. There is a scar there, by her little finger, the silky tether of it long healed, but drawing up the flesh to a tender pucker.

Beyond the circle of lamp-light, images form… I see her peeling vegetables, basting roasts on cold winter nights. Light shines along the carving knife. The kitchen is warm, voices swirl around her, plates and people wait for service. Blood spills beneath the tap, spirals around the plughole like a galaxy.

Children splash in soapy water, their squirming bodies shine. The air is humid, bubbles burst with scents of summer flowers. She hefts each child efficiently, towels them dry with practiced ease, dresses them in fresh pyjamas.

Now in dappled morning, brushing shiny tangled hair. She fastens ribbons, holds the little head to her chest, then lifts the glowing face to her own, cups rosy cheeks lovingly. Her strong brown hands. They have wiped small noses and bottoms, bandaged hurts, mopped tears from flooding tragedy.

In this quiet room, her breathing changes. Small sighs are interspersed with long pauses. Blue shadows tint her nails. A chilly wind begins to whisper in the reeds.

Rain splatters the window, and under another lamp-light a woman knits, the bright wool cascading over nimble fingers, softly growing heavy under them, each row building memory into fabric.

stratified rock,
tree-rings, a jersey,
enfold time.

There’s a film of sweat on her face. I sponge it gently away.

She’s washing with a scrubbing board, bent over the sink, her hair damp with steam from the boiler, her face and hands red . There she is, standing tip-toe, her water-wrinkled fingers cool as they hang linen on a prop-held line, and later, she brings it in, tossing pegs into a tin bath, folds each item deftly.

Her dark hair spills across the pillow. They placed a red rose there.

Did these hands tend gardens? Did they gather flowers, arrange them carefully and place them where they would bring their stored sunshine to her world?

And now, beneath my own, winter creeps into her fingers... It is over. Her family couldn’t bear to stay, but they wait, huddled together for warmth, at home.

autumn leaves
in the cold wind.

I rise and call her family. I am so sorry. It’s Mothers’ day.