Published September 1st, 2023
by Karen Mackenzie-Hamilton
(Peebles, Scottish Borders, Scotland)
If I do indeed button up the back,
undo me. See what makes me tick.
I learned about my mother's strength
as she lay nightly and sat daily
beside my dying father; sedated and
slowly seeping away as she held him,
grasping onto what little was left
until his skin was cold to the touch.
Her seams are looser now and she
breathes every day with a sigh –
still here, five years on, still here.
It didn't take a village to raise me.
There were stern words and a wide belt.
There was love, but it's all still in there,
some pushed back to the recesses,
somewhere near the buttons that
might undo me, or might, in the right light,
do me up.
I lug the weight of it around with me,
working, walking. Sleeping. Especially then.
It digs into the stories my brain conjures
in the quiet dark, but I know too
that her strength is in me. As is his.
It's too late now for conversation,
but I remember a journey – north,
to celebrate a life – and some connection,
words, a little knowledge that went a long way.
But it was a one-off, tied into the death
we were visiting. I don't have many regrets
but there's one there in those scant lines.
Karen Mackenzie-Hamilton: I am writing poetry in the Scottish Borders whilst attending the University of York St John and studying for a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. My writing is observational and related to women, their strengths and weaknesses, and I am working on a collection called Poster Girls. It is not a study on feminism, but rather a series of observations of myself and other women I have met or known.
This poem is included in Poetry World #7, published in the Wax Poetry and Art Library.
Previously published in Edinburgh Poetry Magazine:
by Emilie Roberts
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