My Mum From Memory
If you’d met my mum, you’d know,
Long flowing hair with a crown of grey,
She had this laugh that carried, loud and true,
She had this smile that made her eyes glisten and sparkle blue.
A cigarette in hand, an ashtray full, coffee, beer, or wine,
Sat at the table, an aga kept her company, along with a good book.
She would come home from the library with a basket overflowing,
And be back there within a day or two.
She loved flowers; she loved light; she loved food and company.
She seemed forever heartbroken; she lost both her parents when young and lived in that grief.
A woman of words, literature, plays, poems and song.
Classical music all day long.
She’d drink whenever she could,
Oftentimes more than she should,
She’d sometimes fall, sometimes make a fool,
She was well known in the pub next door.
She was sensual, passionate, articulate.
A woman of the night, eight children she conceived,
seven out of the drama and strife of a death us do part marriage,
Catholicism their sacred bond-age, we’d pray, a rosary never out of reach.
She was smaller than me, in fact, smaller than most,
Cord trousers, a warm jumper, a wedding ring upon nicotine stained finger.
A scent that smelled sweet, although I don’t recall its name.
‘Coffee Stephen’ she would call from her bed.
A room dark, awash with ash, memories, nick-nacks, gifts from parties gone.
Piles of books, clothes, layers of time, empty bottles of wine.
She would ask me to kiss her in the middle of her forehead,
Her headache magically gone.
She would ask me to get the coal in to keep her warm.
She would ask me to give her money, just £5 here, there, everywhere.
It was painful to give, as much as it was to say ’no.’
Every late-night phone call, would it be the news?
The news that she had fallen?
The news that she had died, unconscious, wash-up upon the shores from her latest voyage out on the sea of alcohol?
When I was little I drove her to despair, encopresis took my dignity, days and relationships. School became an island that I could no longer reach, instead I would hide in the woods, eventually found by the truancy officer, the nit nurse, or the police. Every day was consumed with this hide and seek, each time I was found it deepened the shame of not being who or what I was supposed to be. She rubbed my face in my pants, she beat me and derided my feeble attempts at being a child. Yet she loved me.
In time my wildness could not be contained.
Only a prison cell could do that. At 13 Iron John came knocking, and I was gone.
Individuation they say, the brisk cold winds of the Brighton air, my fathers neglect, resentment, seafront flat became my home, for a while. I think mum missed me, although I was never sure.
You’d know my mum if you met her.
Known to all as Dilly.
She died at home.
I tried to save her but I just couldn’t get past the dark,
the bile, I couldn’t bring her breath back, and she left while in my arms.
I wept until my body ached, I thought I would become lost too,
My dad massaged my pain at the funeral, delightful, pitiful.
This was my mum.