Sitting with my father at age 89

He lies in the hospital bed,
the subject of barrier nursing,
looks at his fingers, and says:
Fingers! Figures! There’s a lot of figures about!
He slowly puts his fingers into prayer position,
his hands tortuously enacting transfingeration.

The following day, I’m checking his menu-sheet
when he asks: Is Jesus present?
Is he here physically? Have you seen him physically?
There’s such a lot of figures here!
It’s strange, this presence on earth!
His mind tortuously constellating transfiguration.

I tell him he can drink. He says:
I’ll take my instructions from the top!
I say, I’m not the top, I’m your daughter!
He says, You’re the tops to me!
When we arrange his blanket, he says
He’s OK! If he’s tops! He’s the tops to me.

He says, Everything’s changing all the time.
I mean, the leaves, the blossoms.
He looks out the window, sees and names the viburnum.
He says, The clouds are traveling fast!
They must be coming from Spitzbergen!
I pause to consider; then realize that he’s right.

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Helen May Williams formerly taught at the Warwick University. She is the author of Catstrawe (2019), The Princess of Vix (2017), and a parallel text translation of Michel Onfray’s Before Silence (2020). ). Her debut novel, June (2020), is published by Cinnamon Press /Leaf by Leaf. She founded the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza and is a Cinnamon Pencil mentor.

About the Poem

“This poem registers as accurately as possible a hospital bedside conversation with my father, following a major stroke. After he returned home, my mother felt unable to cope with his care and arranged for him to move into a nursing home on the dead-end street on which they lived. She spent every afternoon sitting with him in his room at the nursing home until his death at age ninety-one.”


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