She stabilised. She started dying
and then stopped. My brother said
her aneurysm had sealed stuck
between a kidney and her spine
with no place for blood to leak.
I’m on the way out
she kept saying to friends and family
daring them to say she wasn’t.
Perky almost belligerent.
It was always hard for her to feel valued.
Her combative talk
was more loving than sugary words.
She was surprised
how many people wanted to speak to her say goodbye
see her one more time weak as she was
people who never cried
started weeping on the phone
she cheered them up with bedside gossip
tell me how many men
did your mother
sleep with really?
I held my mobile to her ear
so she could chat
with my daughter in Colombia
a grandson in Barcelona
another in Palestine
and her sister-in-law
in a bad way too
who said in her soft voice
I shall follow you soon.
THE BUS TO SOLITUDE
I ask the driver to tell me
when we reach Schloss Solitude.
I don’t speak German
I did once my mum knew it
she took a mini-gap-year in Germany 1937
why on earth did her parents send her there then
or was it Berne why didn’t I ask?
German for me was one of those paths not taken
I’ve mostly forgotten except the sound
some grammar a few songs
but the driver seems to say
that when we get to Solitude
and of course there’s a sliding screen
with Next Before and After clearly marked
in rolling surtitles like Stations of the Cross.
We bowl through the streets of Stuttgart
the road begins to climb
through a deciduous muddle
of forest coming into full green foil
each leaf jumping out of bud
a promise my mother will never see again
she used to say with a grin at the fancy word.
We are on a mountain with a castle
on the summit like the story
she loved as a child I have her copy
there will be mines below a princess
who has to be kept safe
from underworld goblins
plotting to flood the mines and take over the kingdom
and a winding stair leading to a secret chamber
where magic will take place on its own terms
which appear to other
people as an empty whim.
But now between Klinik Schillerhöhe
and Forsthaus II in the shape
of a little lit arrow here comes Schloss Solitude.
The bus slows for a rising barrier
into an avenue of sunlit elm
past dreaming horses
nibbling each other’s muzzles in a golden meadow.
My mother would have loved them.
She’d have loved everything about this journey.
I’m on an empty stage set for The Gypsy Baron
a cobbled yard a curved façade and a castle
not ruined at all the turrets painted smooth
sunset cappuccino and not a soul about.
The bus sets me down at a stop marked Solitude
and I realise I have no idea
how my mum felt all those years
on her own. She loved us visiting
word games pub-dinners gossip jokes
but the end of the road was solitude.
I suddenly see she depended on it.
No goblins from below
no interfering magic from above.
Tasks done made her bed
put the milk back in the fridge
people she loved
safe somewhere else at home
and now for her the luxury
of alone. Or is that just me?