My mother all of ninety has to be tied up
in her wheelchair, but still she leans far out of it sideways;
she juts there brokenly,
able to cut
with the sight of her someone who is close. She is hung
like her hanging mouth
in the dignity
of her bleariness, and says that she is
perfectly all right. It is impossible to get her to complain
or to register anything
for longer than a moment. She has made Stephen Hawking look healthy.
It’s as though
she is being sucked out of existence sideways through a porthole
and we’ve got hold of her feet.
She’s very calm.
If you live long enough it isn’t death you fear
but what life can still do. And she appears to know this
even if there’s no hope she could formulate it.
Yet she is so calm you think of an immortal – a Tithonus withering
forever on the edge
though never a moment’s grievance. Taken out to air
my mother seems in a motorcycle race, she
the sidecar passenger
who keeps the machine on the road, trying to lie far over
beyond the wheel.
Seriously, concentrated, she gazes ahead
towards the line,
as we go creeping around and around, through the thick syrups