Poem of the week: Last Rite

A new work by Lorna Shaughnessy

Ward 7B is my cathedral now,
the sacred site of your shrine
and my pilgrimage, where your breath
was miraculous and not just air.

I come to collect what is yours,
to carry home all last things:
last touch, last glance, last words
already wafer thin as a host.

This small, black holdall with your name
on a label written in my sister's hand
to unzip, and one last time unpack
these few, hand-warmed belongings:

pyjamas to hold against a cheek,
soap to wash these hands bereft,
the comb and toothbrush I do not know
where to put or how long it will take

until they stop emitting particles of you
that I might breathe into my lungs, blood, heart,
until the polished hull of the casket locks
so tight that nothing of you can seep out.

Lorna Shaughnessy has published three collections with Salmon Poetry: Torching the Brown River, Witness Trees and Anchored. A new collection, Lake Water, is due from Salmon this year