While it Lasted
One day when I was thirteen, my mother’s hands fell off.
They rolled under the table, giving the cat a bit of a turn.
We looked at them but they gave no sign,
a couple of twitches and that was that.
Mum stood at the chopping board as still as a goalpost.
Dad made her lie on the chaise and put on the potatoes.
She lay holding her bloody stumps high
so they wouldn’t make a mess of the gold velvet.
Dad cooked the dinner and dished up.
We gave her a plate too but how could she eat it?
“Don’t mind me,” she said.
I gave her a bite of my ham and all of my broccoli.
Dad asked if he should call the doctor.
“I don’t want to make a fuss.”
The cat jumped on her lap but, having no hands,
Mum couldn’t stroke her or tip her off.
She rubbed her head against my mother’s cheek
then left to wind in and out of my legs instead
purring, which she never did before.
“You go off and enjoy yourself,” Mum said
so I went and watched Top of the Pops
with the door shut, tied up my school blouse,
danced on the rug like Pan’s People
and didn’t turn down the volume for the loud ones.
Dad asked if she wanted to go to the pub.
“I don’t want to be in the way,” she said
and read the same page of the paper over and over.
The next day I made my own school lunch
and had toast for breakfast instead of Weetabix.
Dad put Mum’s hands neatly in a Tupperware box
and stored them next to the lentils.
“Don’t worry about me,” said Mum. “I’ll get by.”
Weeds grew, dust gathered and the cat shed ginger hairs.
We lived on fish and chips and Chinese.
Dad shopped and washed, I cooked and cleaned.
We gave up ironing and cabbage and mowing the lawn.
Mum’s stumps healed up nicely.
On the shelf next to the mouldy lentils,
her hands shrivelled like marigold seeds.
Then the cat caught a blackbird, ate it
and sicked it up all over the hall floor.
We stared at the lake of vomit and feathers.
“It was good while it lasted,” Mum sighed.
She opened the Tupperware with her teeth,
screwed both hands back in
and filled the bucket with hot soapy water.
Included in my debut Poetry collection, The Space Between published by Doire Press. Why not buy a copy for your mother, aunt, wife, girlfriend or child? Or your Dad, nephew etc… €12 includes free P&P worldwide
My poem was originally published in the Sunday Tribune New Irish Writing page and was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and highly commended for the Forward Prize 2016.