Bernie had her own world I guess,
not one that I was ever really part of.
She was a local in Cricklewood.
Nothing self-conscious about it, she just was.
She drank in Barrett’s for Christsake! She worked in Kilburn.
She’d been to Ireland a few times
but, beyond that, they didn’t do baked beans in Morocco.
There’s a picture of the two of us at a party
and we’ve both had enough to be looking into the middle distance.
It looks like we feel affection for one another –
or she for me, if I’m honest.
When I went over to see my uncle,
he was lying in a coffin
in his own living room while
we lined up for the visitors
who came, each for their own goodbye.
I remember how presentable he was
and I thought of the skill behind that
and wondered about the fucking amateurs
that had prepared my mother
and my father
and my sister.
I didn’t have the heart to make a fuss at the time.
I’d just been punched, hard, in the stomach
and was holding myself quiet, hoping to recover.
But you don’t actually. That’s what
they don’t tell you, the guardians of these things.
They say there is a process, goals, stages
to reach in a journey that will take you
to the other, safe, side of this dangerous hole
that has opened up in your existence.
But supposing it doesn’t happen that way?
Where is the club for people who don’t manage?
The one that will allow you to make a mess of it.
My sister died. She’s still dead.
I live with her absence.
I can’t wrap that up.
Jim Conwell’s parents were economic migrants from the rural west of Ireland and he was born in London, England. He has had poems published in a wide variety of magazines and had two poems shortlisted in the Bridport Poetry Prize. He is married to Annemarie van der Meer and they have eight grandchildren.