for Mary Tierney

On your deathbed you joked:
‘remember the time I nearly died?’
but Mary
you have gone down into a place
blacker than your wit

Your body dreamed of its own decay
wet leaves, rotting crab claws,
the queasy downward spiral
into material

‘Mathematics for ladies!’
I always made you laugh
with Joyce’s quip about Bach -
you were a Zen maths teacher:
on their first day you took
your convent girls to crochet class
to show them how mathematics
is just God knitting the universe...

We are not things but theorems
of which the proof is death
Our last day on the South Wall
you frantically took photos
of the light on the water
the pink, the blue
the mountains reflected above and below
as if trying to prove a thesis:
how could all this beauty vanish?

But it does.
And we are just fading photos,
dancing pixels spinning
to a halt like a wind-up toy
leaving a hole in the light

And if I say I’ll see you again
it’s knowing
there will be no I, no you
and nothing will be seen

Michael O’Loughlin’s latest collection is In This Life (New Island)
Thank you if you have submitted poems for consideration. We can accept new submissions from January, when you can email them to