Joanne Key send me this beautiful, meditative poem about loss, which does reference Titanic but has a wider application. She says she was aiming to give a voice to someone lost at sea. I think it could be a comfort to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one – which is most people.
You many lose sight of sky as sun fades
and falls away down the chimney.
The window between our lives will feel like a hatch
closing. It will be an eclipse for both of us.
Your body can continue on without me. Walk
our usual routes, prepare our favourite meals.
Keep going, even though inside you may feel
the snap of rivets, walls creaking open,
wheels spinning inside you,
trying to steer you off course. Sit. Breathe.
Now and then time stops and seals everything in.
When this happens, keep a lookout for me
on cliff-tops. I am out here. Somewhere. Listen
to whispers of my return, then watch. You will find
my smile comes back on a wave, hear my voice
on the tide. Lie back. Relax. I want you to imagine
your new life rising up like a mighty leviathan
pushing through the surf – see how dark grey
opens out onto a surface of clear blue. I will keep watch
on you, your breaths and silences. In the mirror,
I will see through your eyes, scan your reflection
for signs of ice. Remember to wipe away
the condensation, that widow’s veil of water,
so you may see yourself as I do. I will know
when you have not slept. If you lose weight.
Take my advice – always pull the curtains
at night, ignore all thoughts of what could
crack open, or leak in. Now close your eyes
and think of me, let my memory be the engine
that moves the slow bulk of this sadness
through tons of pressure. There are no faults in you.
So sleep easy. Let me work.
Today, the dreadful news that Victoria Wood has died from cancer has saddened everyone. I can’t help but find this poem comforting in the light of that. Victoria Wood has been the darling of her generation: funny, generous, witty, sparkling her way through, celebrating femininity and Northerness. But she has left an amazing legacy. We have and can enjoy all her recorded brilliance. Who can forget Dinner Ladies? I loved the way she could drop in a brand name, or a Northern town (once she used my home town, Widnes), her remarkable songs. I had planned to feature this poem today but I could not have dreamed how fitting it would be.