The south face

(i.m. Shirley Beckwith)

This is the south face

Moss-quiet and chilled stone.

Here no sun's slothful coat

Or darts of amorous warmth,

Only long shadows on cold ground.

She visits every day: brings

The small things: flowers, fruit.

A new bed-jacket, her own

Covers the shoulders that hide the wound,

The fertile dancing cells in the throat.

Sarcoma: such a beautiful word she thinks

One day, trying to be detached,

At least from the night-drenched pillow

Wetter than the dying sister's, who fretful

Puts her affairs in order; a dying

As ordered as her life.

The sister dies one morning early,

In the dark on a bier of morphine.

She retreats, locks doors, endures

A season of grief.

Blast magazine, 1988