Waiting Beside You

Andy Kissane

All I can do is sit by your bed and watch you die.
I don’t yet know that what I am feeding you
will become your last meal on this earth.

Spoon after spoon of thickened water because
it’s easier to swallow and a few spoonfuls
of pumpkin soup, though spoonful is a misnomer.

Your appetite has shrunk along with your body.
Parched lips, eyes firmly shut, your white hair combed
back against the pillow. I watch your mouth slowly opening

as I balance the spoon and tip the clear, wobbling
liquid onto your tongue. Occasionally I miss and mop
your cheek with a tissue. You say, “Please”

and “Thank you” as if you have decided to teach
by example, impart the perfect manners that rarely
graced a table crowded with five boys who learnt

to eat quickly or go hungry. When I think of the word mother
I see you with an apron on, peeling potatoes, the black pot
simmering on the stove. I think how we took for granted

the steaming plates you placed in front of us, night after night,
how the kitchen was a no-man’s-land you patrolled,
how peace was the sound of boys with heads down,

eating heartily. Everything has changed. Now we
can cook: goat curry, fish wrapped in banana leaves,
upside-down plum cake. Recipes are for sharing.

I lift the spoon to your lips and you say, “Thanks,
I’ve had enough.” I listen to the rattle in your chest,
how each breath you take seems to fill up the room.

When I think of love I will always see a tablecloth—
knives, forks and spoons in their places, serviettes.
I will always hear your welcome cry, “Dinner is ready.”