First heard words, delivered to this right ear
Allah hu Akbar – God is great – by my father
in the Queen Elizabeth maternity ward.
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
says Herbert, is prayer. If I continued
his lines from there, from birth – a break Herbert
chimes with heav’n and earth – I’d keep in thought
my mum on a Hereford hospital bed
and say what prayer couldn’t end. I’d say
I made an animal noise, hurled language’s hurt
at midday, when word had come. Cancer. Now so spread
by midnight her rings were off.
I stayed on. At her bed.
Earlier, time and rhythm flatlining, I whispered
Thank you I love you thank you
mouth at her ear.
She stared on, ahead. I won’t know if she heard.