poem by Jeni Couzyn, from the Bloodaxe Book of Women Poets.
A Death In Winter
Beside the exit, seated at a table
is a grey clerk with a ledger.
At his feet is a kind of box --
a trunk perhaps, a hope chest or
a rubbish bin.
Cross-legged in the doorway
my friend sits, watching light
stream in through the opening.
It soaks her in beauty.
She has given back her future.
In character, neatly folded, she placed it
carefully in the box
and the clerk ticked it off.
Now she takes off her feet, like shoes
gently, one beside the other;
she takes her speech and returns it
syllable by syllable
she unpicks it thoughtfully, like knitting
unravels it, one plain, one purl
meaning by meaning;
she gives back her hands --
lays them down in the box with a smile.
There is no regret in her.
She knows their excellence.
And now she gives back continence, choices,
understanding the strange
comings and goings about her.
Everything she returns is fine and cared for.
The clerk ticks it all off in his ledger.
She is hardly human now
she is almost entirely love
she has given back her children
and very little of the personal #is left in her heart.
To the left of the doorway is a linen basket.
A plump girl, laughing, kneels besides it.
She is handing out gifts
to the souls who come trooping
in through the opening like sunlight.
Hands to grip a finger
feet to walk
the first smile
Mama, Papa, I want, I think
all the trappings of the journey.
My friend smiles across at the girl
as if she were a daughter.
The radiance streams in and over her
soon she will take off the last of her body
and step out
into the stillness.