For My Mother

Gail Hennessy

My brother rang me in Bangkok
where I had placed a prayer wheel
on the altar of the golden Buddha

lit incense in that foreign space
hoping for some efficacy
and any gamble worth a try

on the flight back to Sydney
every prayer willed you living
until my return . . .

In the hospital bed
you were so small
you who had been my world.

My brother and I kept watch
talking, singing, telling,
could you hear?

The nurse announced they
would give you a bath
they all love it, she said

I saw you shudder
the tremor travel
through your fingertips

and remembered the story
of the ‘aunt’ who held you
under in the bath

no, I said, a sponge will be best
for my mother.
It was such a little rescue.

And after you had gone
the terrible sound
that came from me

my friend had warned
the primordial cry of loss

and now all the times since
when I have wanted to tell you
of this, of that, of all . . .