Personal Choice 70
Long Distance II
Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.
You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.
He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.
I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call.
Tony Harrison (1937 - ) is an English poet, translator and playwright.
I think we have all had the experience of reading something that we were really moved by and loved and then promptly forgotten where it was located. I first read this poem 20 years ago and thought it was just a wonderful poem – perhaps one of the best I had ever read that dealt so remarkably with grief. And then forgot where I had read it. I have searched for this poem ever since and opening a book of poems recently I had not opened for exactly the same time was just overwhelmed when in the bookmarked page – there it was!