Daily Poem

  • Body as a Home for This Darkness by Maeve McKenna

    Body as a Home for This Darkness

    The white bowl, canteen style, holds a roast beef dinner. Each smooth dollop settles neatly on the teaspoon. Beside it, orange juice in a teacup, fortified with supplements and a thickening agent. A bib and some tissues. The wheeze of a mattress punctures the silence. You sit propped, a pillow each side of your bent frame. The blue woven blanket is tangled around your feet. I ease each leg free, spread the cover out, tuck it under the safety rail. Over the bed a wedding photograph; you in an ill-fitting suit, your wife in a white dress, taller. She’s holding your hand. Neither of you smile. Your hair is a dull grey now, nails bitty and yellow. On the locker your grandchildren beam out with familiar brown eyes. Placing just a drop on the spoon, I move it to your mouth, touch the rim gently against cracked lips, and tilt. I watch your neck contract, wait for the wet gurgling, will each morsel down the right way. Once, you made raspberry jelly when my throat hurt. I’ll ask if I can bring you some. Later, when the nurse explains she’s applying antibiotic drops because your eyelids won’t open and your eyes are crusted and sore, I say I understand. It’s hard to know when you are awake or asleep. Your chest rising and falling is all we know. Dusk edges across the car park, the way out distant and fading. I close the curtains, read aloud some crossword clues. It’s quiet, then dark.

    Ironed grey overalls.
    Petrol scent on a face cloth.
    Dad, dinner’s ready.

    by Maeve McKenna, first published in The Haibun Journal

    Editor’s Note: This haibun tackles the idea of the body as a framework for suffering, but from the point of view of life and memory and love rather than fatalism.