Sunday, 12 October 2014

I Mourn My Mother

Some poems I wrote for my mother - they are all quite old now.  She died 25 years ago today.  I loved her deeply and am grateful for all she was.

In duty, without complaint, rise early,
take dawn’s sheen to the day.
Dust particularly what is unseen,
sweep up any flakes of ingratitude,
stitch loose threads into purpose, and
cleanse from your mouth the unspeakable;
do this quickly, before is added
tarnish to steadfastness, loyalty.
Unwrap, slowly, the gift of evening,
soothing the uneasy earth with music,
surrender yourself to laughter,
catch the sparkle of late-night exchange,
dream of the eternal and possible.
Live full, not fast.

The days do not admit your face,
your image somehow fading in the light.
Yes, there are the photographs,
the chair on which I drop my clothes.
Sometimes there is even a look of you
in my son’s dimples, when I put up my hair;
but there is also the end-to-end claim
of the present, the squeeze of the young.

So yours is the half-wakeful space,
the small-houred time where,
dreamful, I drift amongst
fragments of your story:
I strive to place them, piece them,
fit them together.

It is fitting, this blazed-red end,
this final heave of summer heat
sustained into your fraction of a season.
The earth is giving you all the glory
of the autumns you are owed,
saving its most till your last.

It is the trees which know best,
gold-framing the bedroom window
where you lie, opening an eye
to greet them; these trees which have
marked your life in so many quarters:
bare, green, broad and shedding.

Now, most innocent you,
fetched up high on the drugs
we have fed you,  remark,
wistfully, on the teddy bears
ambling, picnicking in the branches;
untethered now, you join them.

If I opened this tin,
if I opened this tin again,
this tin, which was yours and is mine;
if I were to grasp, twist, slide, lift,
reveal the ribbons, clasps and bands
which held your lovely, lively hair;

if I, reckless and wanting,
were to open this tin again,
I would breathe in the last fragrance,
residue of the smell of you,
captured, kept, for a time, in this tin
which was yours and is mine.

Sally Lefroy - 1937-1989


  1. beautiful, universal poems of loss and reflection.

  2. Hi Liz, I first heard these (and other) poems at your poetry recital evening at Keele University a few years ago when I was studying there. I kept your booklet which had a green cover and used to read it whenever I missed my late younger brother, and in later years, my grandmother. Sadly I seem to have misplaced the booklet in a house move, and coming across the above poems has prompted me to try to contact you. I wondered if there was any way I could buy another booklet of the poems you wrote for your mother, as they really touched my heart in difficult times.

    1. Hi Mariam - that is good to know, that you found some comfort in these. I've not got any of those pamphlets left but could send you copies of poems. Can you private message me on Facebook if you'd like that? All the best, Liz