Send-off. A poem by Mark Saunders

I am not there but I can see it
(just as we see everything now
from a distance):
the car, the three of them, the heaps
of foliage freshly cut, suggesting
perhaps a trip to a spring festival.

But notice how well they are dressed,
my sister in a pretty dress he would have liked
and their two sons scrubbed up and handsome
in their suits.

Who is driving? I can’t tell
but I can get the drift of conversation,
how practised they are at keeping things light,
and not giving in
not yet anyway.

They talk about the ridiculous neighbour who came
to post a card of condolence and then washed
their front-door. ‘Like we had the plague’.

I am not there but I can see it:
the functional room, the woman they meet
who ushers them inside, urges them
to sit two metres apart, but accepts
that household bonds over-ride.

She watches – as I do – my sister
arranging the flowers to soften the coffin’s edge.
Now she sits between her two boys,
hands tightly clasped, broad shoulders
holding her in like a sandwich.

The music begins. They have chosen it
with care: to finish with Ella and Louis
singing They can’t take that away.
This is a special, private
send-off; that’s what they wanted.

Just the four of them.


Mark is a freelance theatre-maker and writer, living in South Queensferry.

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