After the hearse glissades up to the entrance
as immediate family members mill.
The rest of us have congregated
at an un-obtrusive distance,
like extras waiting for our cue.
Spotting the collage of our familiar faces
she abandons funeral protocol,
and leaving the undertakers discretely
checking their watches,
begins to greet us individually.
I turn my head as her tears haemorrhage
unstaunched by tissues,
because I can never remember
seeing her cry, even as a kid.
Reaching the end game of his 10-year prognosis,
his death still felled her like a stroke.
No personal call this time, as when her father,
the first love of her life, died.
No ‘Buck up’ pep-talk to herself,
in this family who pride themselves
on never being ‘mimsy ‘
instead her sisters rallied to make arrangements.
And our communication
over the previous few weeks —
a few eggshell texts,
a row of kisses.
But now I see that she grieves as passionately
as she loves, lost for the words that usually come
like eager dogs at her bidding,
her gratitude for us attending,
is conveyed in ardent hugs.
Finding myself ambushed by this break
from funeral etiquette, I return the pressure
of her embrace, like for like, croak a few words
as if attempting a foreign language.
When she moves on, my anxiety stands down,
and I can look at her now,
strange in black, since she always prefers ‘brights’
to match her primary-colour personality.
Yet in knitted dress and stilettos,
I note she still somehow manages, like Jackie Kennedy,
to wear grief with unintentional chic.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Fiona Sinclair
would be pleased to hear them.