This Poem is Alive Because it is Unfinished

My father is alive, I dared to type, and there he was:

my father, who blew kisses to the young women

who tended him in his infirmary bed,

and fed him what he could drink of the world in its last paper cups.


My father loved as a mouth loves.

          He called them My darlings, and they giggled,

                     being shy and familiar with sorrow,

                             and they told me, He’s our favourite,

                                       when they left us alone together.


The hours of my father’s dying taught me

the older you get, the more emotions you feel, each harder to

describe, and the differences between them.


They said, He’s our favourite,

and by those words I recall them.


Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t;

maybe they say that to everyone who visits the dying

in their care – it does not matter.


When I believe them, it is the same as when I don’t,

their words no longer burdened with the ordinary business

of telling me something I should know.


Even the most powerful among us fall asleep,

or become ill, or just stop whatever it is they’re doing

and stand a while.


Sometimes a poem can let us see our love in a new light,

the way my dying father does when he can do no more.


This poem is alive because it is unfinished.

My father is alive,

and I am holding his hand,

and his hand is pale, and blue, and violet,

a trembling garden of irises.





from On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood (Wolsak and Wynn, 2016), Richard Harrison 2016, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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