My wonderful, younger daughter, Lara, started to write poems in the year or so before she died in 2023. I’m immensely proud to publish a selection of them here, together with poems written for her by my friends.
I stare again at the magnolias
cut in frosted glass. They wind
around the waiting room, devised
to distract. The outside world
is a blur, frozen.
The stems curl and tighten,
slowly constricting our energy.
A never ending pattern, defying
its design. The colourless pane
offers fleeting glimpses of clarity:
within one solitary bloom
a section of concrete courtyard;
others hold the faces of strangers,
mutated, in their various stages of growth.
I don’t recognise my own.
When we were young, I’d follow you,
And copy everything you’d do.
I wanted the same dress and shoes,
Why were mine green when yours were blue?
We’d run and play all afternoon,
And soak our socks in summer dew.
I’ll never be as old, that’s true,
I could not spin as fast as you.
It must have
out of someone’s pocket,
the blue glove.
fell from an overstuffed bag,
or maybe it was hurled
from a pram.
where its twin is…
I’ll hang it
on the fencepost
and pass it every day
until it’s gone.
The Long Road Home
When once we roamed through woods without a name,
And talked of all we’d do in years to come,
There was no thought of dreams we’d need to tame,
I did not hear the distant beating drum.
When days were long we ran without a care,
Through meadows and along the winding lane,
But now that time is short, the trees are bare,
And memories are all that now remain.
Whenever I return along this road,
I count my weary footsteps up the slope,
And sense the ticking clock has now been slowed,
But in this moment I can dare to hope.
For though the golden years of life are done,
There’s beauty in the setting of the sun.
We hadn’t prepared that well
for the long ascent.
The mountain mocked us
at every turn.
Streams too shallow to fill flasks
with more than a trickle.
Loose stones tumbled
over the edge.
White air grew thin,
Always just around
the next bend…
New Year’s Eve
the first fat flakes
begin their soundless descent
pirouetting through the air,
into a frenzy.
we dance beside them.
Vignettes in windows.
was muffled out there.
The grandfather clock smirks,
he’s the only one ready
for the countdown…
We charge our glasses
then join hands
to sing it in.
A blank page, another year.
And snow settles silently
You’re still there, I think,
Amongst the others, stuck
At the back of the freezer.
They’re just going to sleep now
The doctor said. Frozen. In a time
When there was still hope, of life.
You might be almost four now
My little aliens, still awaiting your fate.
At least you are sleeping.
I only wish I hadn’t given you names
That would never be called.
Sweet dreams my darlings,
I’ll meet you in another life.
The following poems were written for Lara by Jen Webb, Cassandra Atherton, Paul Hetherington, Katharine Coles and Andy Melrose.
Gaze at a single star, that one on the curve of the
world. It will gaze back always, a small beam
lighting up like a scatter of love.
On warm April nights
On warm April nights,
you are the bluest hour
following the sun.
stands, with the nuances
of art: ineluctable,
which, from this distance,
are airy spells to conjure
her singular way of saying
that love has many ways
to shift and anchor
even as the ineffable
flusters the chill air.
When I speak your name. When you
Borrow my tongue. When you draw
Me down a shaded path in dream
Or float in the eye. The corner
Where you sat in the kitchen
No longer ours. The green
Hills of summer. A chill falls
No different from the last.
This time, it never leaves.
Kites (a chorus)
Brown paper, flour and water,
split canes and a ball of string,
tie them tight,
then let them fly.
‘Glass Magnolias’, ‘New Year’s Eve’, ‘Missing’ and ‘Petri Dish’ were first published in Axon: Creative Explorations. ‘Spinning’ was first published in Meniscus.