Lizzie Ballagher welcomes you to her poetry blog. If you’re following her already, you’ll know she writes often about trees. For a few weeks, from today, however, she turns to poems about what it may mean to be human. She writes in today’s poem about what it’s like to watch a much-loved mother approach the end of her life.
Mother among the Roses
The mercury rises, like my mother’s age,
Into the nineties.
Bowed in a wheelchair,
Nodding among the roses,
She’s in the December of her life.
Australian January brands its heat
Upon her white head, pale
On a slender stem.
After months behind spring’s steel doors
In a hospital hot as a greenhouse,
She’s back in an Eden of air and roses.
Now for the first time out in sunlight
She lifts her face into the velvet:
Damask roses along a bowling green.
Like perfume, memory rises, too.
Standing unseen behind her,
Behind her bending head,
My hands dark as rose thorns
On the wheelchair’s wrists,
I hold on hard, mourning
Gardens made and left behind
I weep for gardens dug and planted
By those same hands, all crooked now,
By those same green fingers
That steady the red, the blush, the pink
To inhale the fragrant rose scent
Sharp with thorns, yet sweet:
Sharp, yet sweet as my mother.
© Lizzie Ballagher
Mum as a child 100 years ago