by Zaffar Kunial

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.