Jetty

‘They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.’ – Samuel Beckett

 

1

My father’s illness: a shy teenage
embarrassment, the whole thing done
to make me feel awkward. I refused to go
to the hospice but looking at photographs,
I saw how pretty the garden was, how still
the statues. How did they get their roses
to look so healthy? When I did visit
he became fixated on mum’s earring,
the silver latticed pattern, and made her take
it off so we could all examine it in his palm.

My mum said to a friend on the phone,
‘They’ve said goodbye,’ as though
something had been redeemed, but
I don’t actually remember saying it.
Memory takes a lot on trust.

A friend tells of a cat giving birth
to kittens in a bucket: small newness,
pink mole blindness. The threat
of someone picking up the bucket
by the handle and then drowning them.

 

2

Who will go first?

My sister and I would stand on the end
of the jetty, toes gripping wood, and wait
to see who would jump first into ink-black
water, till we had to count one-two-three
and jump together, squealing at the fear of it.

She lost her virginity before me, will give
birth before me - so it would follow if
she went first. Yet there is that other pattern
of the background, which allows everything
else to be in relief: pink diamonds of palm flesh.

Once she saved all the chocolate eggs
the doctor gave her so she could slowly eat
them in front of me, who had scoffed mine
days earlier. She could punish me with
her stubborn eking out. I’m not even sure
it was Easter but that would make sense.

We had been to the doctor to be tested,
just in case, to be sure.

Perhaps the gleam of light is like
a camera flash: it makes us see
things better, see each other better,
in that gap of air before the darkness.