I liked the last turn of the last page
of the school choir songbook,
where we came to the Maori lament —
because it was beautiful: sweet
mournful notes and mellifluous
syllables of a foreign language,
finishing with the plaintive
long-drawn-out English: ‘Sad am I
without thee.’ We would sigh then
softly, on the last out-breath
before closing the book.
This is what comes to me now,
with your lingering death
finally accomplished, New Zealand girl.
Although you were not Maori,
perhaps you won’t mind that I return
to that most lonely and lovely lament
in my long memory, when I think of you.
Which at present is all the time.
I am sadness incarnate,
it lives in my body, shakes me
like the seizures you had,
doubles me over and throws me
into an absence of comfort, the pit
of black grief, abysmal
how young you were, Penelope.
I am old, but already
life calls me back to itself.
From the bedroom, my husband
in pain, is talking to me as if
I could hear, and I do hear
as he crashes to the floor.
I pick him up, massage his foot,
help him to the bathroom and back.
The cat on the bed murmurs
to greet me; I croon in return.
My body is crying for coffee.
You were here, you are gone.
I have spent all night
and half the morning weeping.
I know you loved me.
You knew I loved you.
I wanted to save
your stories and poems and paintings, but
the world is full of art.
Strangely, the world
is full of you. You can’t be cancelled.
I drink my coffee deep.
Tonight I shall watch
a show you would have liked too
on TV. Tonight
I’ll turn the next page. What comes after
‘Sad am I without thee’?
A 'page turner' poem submitted for dVerse / M:/P MAG collaboration.
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