Driving On Auto-Pilot Poem by Paul Hansford

Driving On Auto-Pilot

Rating: 3.5

Called out of a staff meeting, I was told
my mother was on the point of death.
Searching in the regulations,
the secretary told me
how many days I was allowed
for the death, and
(separately) for the funeral,
each allowance dependent
on the degree of relationship – mothers
are in the first category.

Arriving home, without realising
how I had driven there,
feeling the need to be clean for her,
I showered, dressed appropriately,
and drove on.

A hundred and fifty miles of motorway,
somewhere a stop for tea.
Why did I look in the service station bookshop?
There was a life of Eliot.
I should read it one day.

She died before I arrived.
It was not unexpected. She had lived a year
after the stroke, longer
than we, or she, had thought possible.
How cold her cheek was.
Death was not new to me –
I had known pets in plenty go
from age, accident, or lethal injection,
been with some as they died – but mothers
are in a different category.

Sonya Florentino 15 August 2009

this is a shock after reading the other poem...i was hoping she'd live longer...i don't know what to say, death is strange...and the death of the person who carried you into this life must the the strangest yet....

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Marieta Maglas 15 August 2009

The poem suggests that feelings are ''driven'' by the personal control, as well as levels of cognitive functioning, following a nonlinear trajectory and corresponding to that of similar situations.There are a few very important problems of life and death and the poet tries to find the balance and rid himself of them.The feelings for his mother are crossed through his pain, because of loosing her in death...excellent poem.10++++ from me

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Susan Jarvis 15 August 2009

The title of this poem says it all; the pragmatic, seemingly detached reaction to the news - searching in the regulations / dressing appropriately / stopping for tea on the long journey. But, underneath that stalling, 'auto-pilot' persona, there lies that raw emotion that touches the reader's heart. The 'need to be clean for her' and that unspoken touch of her cheek; 'how cold her cheek was'. The troubled boy peeps through in the comparison with the death of pets. And then there are the repetitive words and the effective line breaks in the first and final stanza - 'mothers/ are in the first category...mothers/ are in a different category.' So subtle, yet so sad. S: (

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Patti Masterman 15 August 2009

I really love this. And perhaps, she didn't want you standing over her to catch her last breath. They are finding out that we have a lot more choice over the moment we leave than you would ever think. Great writing. I could really feel it when you registered that you were too late; retracing in your mind the things that you felt you had loitered too long at doing, before you were able to make it to her side.

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A B Faniki 24 September 2019

How they did it. Sorry for your loss indeed mother ar in a diffrnt category. A geat write n imagery

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A B Faniki 24 September 2019

I can relate.While in shock 1 culd drive auto pilot is a feeln dat 1 wil always luck bac 2 an wonda

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Jennie Radley 08 May 2010

Paul, just read this poem - I'm sorry she didn't make a good recovery. I hope the time before her passing was happy for you both.

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Buscador Del Palabra 02 September 2009

This is such an intimate poem. Having recently lost my own mother, I have at least an inkling of your feelings. The actions are all auto-pilot, as you, said, It seems to me it doesn't really matter whether death is expected or even welcomed... the loss is still truly the same. Sorry for your loss, Mike

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Tom Balch 24 August 2009

A truely heartfelt piece Paul, how the last line sums up the numbness and the pain, A fantastic read that I know will touch the hearts of many, thaks for posting, Regards Tom

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