When your mother dies
there’s no one left to hold the sky.
When I was small
we lived on the top floor
in Wimpole Street an attic window
looking out on a forest canopy of silver tiles
where an owl
roosted in a revolving flue
after a long night’s hunting in Hyde Park.
When the wind blew
my mother held me up
to see the vent swing its cowl
like a periscope
and two dark eyes appeared
looking back at us
from a nimbus of pale feathers.
Face of a secret moon.
In the last week
when we were all
making long-distance phone calls wherever we could
find a signal
gathering over scratch meals
running out of milk
that moment when true feelings light up suddenly
out of the square-cut stone of the everyday
and urgency swings in like a wrecking ball
one of my brothers said
that her twenty-first birthday fell
during the London blitz.
Her brothers all away
working in hospitals
labs in America
she was alone with her disabled
older sister and their parents.
None of them remembered until supper
when her mother
and came back with a ring.
I don’t like to think of this.
No one excited for her
as her brothers might have been
only something quick-found that would do
in the blackout autumn rain
twenty miles from fires
shaking thunder on the night horizon.
a piece of stuck-together love and hurt
splintered by the invading shale or schist
I never heard of it till now
never saw it on her finger. Will we find it in
the small bashed-up brown case
of jewellery she never wore
we lugged to those valuers
or was it got rid of lost
through the years that came after?
How do you prove
and what can you value
under the mountain range
of the unconscious?
We never ask
the bedrock question till too late.