Of a friend’s ill health, begun in youth,
you said: ‘It was her life, you know.’
You did the Stations of the Cross with her
each Good Friday, completing the circuit
in the empty church. That final time –
you’d laugh about it after –
you guided her the wrong way round,
ending at the beginning of the Passion.
Always, you allowed for hope: each loss
a truth to be mourned in prayer, then lived beyond.
Years on, your friend would share, unknowingly,
the same hospital room. You stayed calm,
knew how to let things be; needed all your strength
to hold your nerve. To hope. To live beyond.
Here you are: in fox-fur cape with daphne spray;
dark eyes, dark hair; a warmly delicate smile:
fresh-lipped, trusting, your Irish mother’s daughter.
And here she is, formal in black, vibrant,
knowing what she knows… As a girl you’d nursed her
through bouts of dengue, contracted in India.
Once, taking your hand, she had said:
‘I’ve always thanked God for giving me you.’
Hours later, unexpectedly, her heart would fail.
Under the spinning metal fan, the frame
around you and my father, in middle-age,
glimmers like light on water….. In a small oval
the faces of two half-strangers who became as sisters,
able, at last, to guess the unsaid.
Five Years On
In Ireland last year I parted with
my particular grief, came back absolved;
no longer bereft, beholden.
But remembrance pulses on.
Whole cultures have been built on it,
have made of it a sacred observance,
and an art – the discerning of what the dead
ask of us, and how they feed our lives,
still, with glimmerings of wisdom.
The voices within us – some planted long ago
by them – have their conversations, suggest
how we might live now: more bravely,
more gracefully; tell us it is a marvellous thing
to stand simply in the light, accepting it.
Diane Fahey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Diane Fahey’s most recent publications, The Wing Collection: New & Selected Poems and The Stone Garden: Poems from Clare, were shortlisted for major poetry awards. A House by the River is forthcoming from Puncher & Wattmann in 2015. Diane has received a grant from the Australia Council to support the writing of a poetry collection set in the west of Ireland.