So Long Lives This – David Gilbey

Finally, at the funeral, I cried – when my sister arrived.

Until that point I’d gripped my tears

in plans, constraint and obligation: phone her sister,

comfort her mother, organise a coffin,

get Adrian to play the organ.

 

Busyness in all its mundanity held me firm.

I’d ask Tony and Fred to speak her life

and I’d read a Shakespeare sonnet:

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’

The rhetorical question stumbles through my stubble.

My neighbour folds and sends my grey, pin-stripe suit from Wagga.

A class of students rings me in the night

each one stretching word fingers to stroke my ears.

 

These crowded, jewelled moments buffered out the hospital:

the transfusions, the charts, the drugs – and her loss of dexterity,

the changes to her body, hair and skin –

moved back a few stops behind the organ’s bars

as family, friends and colleagues filed into the chapel.

 

But then my waters broke, and for a moment

the helplessness of bountiful grief,

wordless, racking, unanswerable,

washed over me.