Kissing the Undertaker
Dad’s heart was still beating, when the remote control changed
channels and the pizza came hot out of the oven, on this
other side of the Irish Sea. The internet’s absence of noise,
holds a gallant ignorance against the ringing of both phones.
It can’t be true, until the silence is unequivocally cleaved
first by confirmation from the nurse, then condolences.
The world splits, into those who know and those who do not.
Bank card numbers, swallowed into the ether, buy
two seats, my other sister’s absence occupying the third.
In the airport toilet, the music is reminiscent of a communist
Chinese labour camp or a 1950s American TV commercial.
Christmas lights pierce the fog, distressing my optic nerve.
The quiet hills and descending fog, create a damp
blanket, holding each absent year, every winter night
of childhood and the empty chair at his bedside.
The undertaker’s soft voice, from a mobile in a car, speaks of
tasks to be done, sounding strangely far and comfortingly
close, all at once, as if he could somehow fix everything.
I wonder, would the undertaker’s gentle tones,
transform into the fiercest of kisses, hold me safe
from the newspaper deadlines and coffin catalogues.
Barbara O’Donnell was born in 1975 in West Cork and works full-time in the NHS in London. Her poetry has been published in The Screech Owl, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Skylight 47, Three Drops Poetry, South Bank Poetry and Poetry24.