Jenny Mitchell

Last Words
for my grandfather

They came out on his death,
laid on a cooling board:
rough cedar plank with holes,
allowing blood and waste,
to drip through ragged clothes
onto a bed of ice.
Melting pink, it slowed the rot.

The morgue attendant thought
it must have been a breeze.
A dead man could not say I love
with cloth tied round his jaw.
Five sons insisted.
They did not want the lips to part,
believing in the old wives’ tale:
a ghost escapes from any hole.

Three daughters argued for a while,
agreed their father rarely talked,
preferring to wield canes.
How could he speak in death,
to be so sentimental?
He never mentioned love,
not even to his wife.

Must have been a breeze;
except the voice was heard again,
coming from the ruined face,
eyes so deep
they might have been pushed in
by angry thumbs.
Chin still proud,
which seemed a cheek:
the cloth was soiled.

His children hurried to the door
as it was said again:
I love
faint as a breeze
but certain.

Last Words by Jenny Mitchell received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.

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