Guess what it was

that cracked the glass, that chipped the calm.


Not the clanging alarm in her vacant room.

Not the calendar groomed to remind her

of future events: grandchildren’s birthdays,

a church bazaar, a doctor’s appointment.


Not the sight of her favourite cup, rim of gold

worn thin by her thirsty lips. Not the empty arms

of the chair where she always sat.


Guess what split the skin, what pierced the hide

with its heat-seeking dart.


Not the biscuit tins layered with cards,

treasured as proof she was loved, by whom

and for what. Not the photographs.

Not the long-playing soundtracks to my youth.


Not her lace-edged blouses, her roseprint dresses

carrier-bagged. Not making gifts of her rings

and crosses, her pearls and handbags and purses.

Not the lavender bedding smelling of her.


Guess what it was

that pierced the bark, that smashed the tree into sticks.


Not the lucky charms she kept from her wedding day.

Not the prayers and hymns she collected

to sing, to say, to protect those she loved, and the rest,

to keep her connected to faith when despair intercepted.


Not the absent novels and music I gave her,

paintings I made her. Not her shelves emptied of books,

a story left open on page eighty six. Not half her life

carried away in a box by men from the charity shop.


Guess what it was. Guess, guess,

in the end what it was that drove the wave, that broke the banks.


It was the crocheted shyness of a toilet roll cover.

It was the knitted warm of the teapot’s pullover.



© Chris Banks

Published in the anthology ‘Hold This Hand’ (Cruse Bereavement Care)