Poetry by Maureen Wilkinson

Snow Line

Weekly, while the world grew into winter,
I travelled up by train, reading, re-reading
the landscape's genealogies which linked us;
our lives.  I stayed nights in your council bungalow.
Such a bright world you had wrought to haven you,
with its blossoming carpets, and bays
of ornamental animals;
its pictures all song-birds, and hay-wains and blue-bell
woods: so that each day, spent with you warded
in your white bed; with you wired up
to your heartbeat, drained and fed through tubes;
I grew to dread
the weight of so much brightness I must bring you, I must wear
like a borrowed dress, while you smiled, and shrank your flesh
to fit the pain which anchored you, and only talked of home.
And when the world was winter, and you guessed
that you were dying, and grew suddenly old,
then you asked the nurse for something you could take
to lift you to the paradise which surely
still floated, full of sunlight and lost loves
above the leaden sky.
The day you died it snowed.  I hurried from the late
train through the muffled streets.
Your hands were warm beneath the flower pinned coverlet,
and when I kissed you, then it seemed your spirit still
seeped slowly, like the shining from a garden.  Through the window
dumb flakes displaced you with their white erasure.
Oh the priest in your numb house
offered me God and Heaven, but I said
that I believed in neither, though I thought
that spirit might be immortal, recycling
like water or energy: yet you would find no joy
in such neutral eternity, so I thought on,
and said perhaps separate souls might imprint this ubiquitous
spirit, just as water may be imprinted;
each salmon seeking out its spawning river:
and the priest grew animated, and said 'Yes,
or just as homoeopathic medicines
work in immense dilutions.'   Then I visualised you swimming
with your beloved dead, fitting together
like a shoal of coloured fish made out of light,
and I told the priest, who nodded
gravely, perhaps only thinking
grief had unminded me.
And your house lived on one week, embalmed with snow,
with your racked clothes holding breath, and your pot plants green
and your tamed birds ever waiting in the garden.
Where can you dwell?  You are the mirage figure
who mosaics this new summer, as if days
were a photo-montage, which constantly remakes itself.
You are the snap-shot woman
death stoically cuts out, but then replaces, smiling:
each time the mend is almost perfect, but for the trace
of tell-tale space around you, like a snow line
which renders you invisible.

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