My Mother’s House

The wooden rooms echoed
every bare thing: neat squares of dirt –
absence of mountains and moonlit lakes silver-framed,
the weight of a bees-waxed sideboard embedded
in the sale-room carpet I begged her to buy,
that damp smell – dogs she no longer recognised,
bedrooms hanging on to mumps, measles – illness
mended with teaspoons of malt and orange juice,
cobwebbed views to the river in all its moods,
the cellar pump coughing-up water from the well,
the felt roof leaking rain on to the piano – lid open – mum
playing us through the worst winters
until her fingers could no longer span
and the octaves fell silent. Years
distilled into a last hour I held
like best glass, touching every brailled wall,
my mother’s fury close as breath, her sadness
slipped to numb hands, a smile
on the agent’s face measuring, calculating
a priceless thing.

Kerry Darbishire