The celebrant asked for anecdotes
family memories to put in her notes
for the eulogy
But honestly?
it’s hard
like sorting through fading photographs

But I vividly remember when I was six
sitting on the black metal child’s seat, fixed
to the back of her bike
holding a plastic plane that I liked
off to one side as we flew
like the plane was airborne and me & mum, too
but I dropped it
so mum hauled on the bike’s brakes and stopped it
slowly wheeled the bike back to get it
a silly thing, maybe, but I won’t forget it

I suppose some things are for keeping, some for showing;
I end up sending the celebrant the following:

My mate Gordon is the first of my crowd
to get a motorbike so he brings it round
Mum comes out, asked him how it works
Gordon swinging his helmet smirks
‘Jump on Mrs Clayton – if you’ve got the bottle!’
She drops the clutch, wraps the throttle,
Pops a wheelie and before he knows it
Flies head first into a bed of roses

life’s but a walking shadow

I’ve quit a lot of things in my time, believe me
jobs, school, college – all defeated me
the relationships
I let slip
even this poem I’m writing today
will no doubt end up going the same way

‘You lack sticking power’, mum used to say
when I’d tell her the latest thing I’d thrown away
‘You have to learn to grin and bear it’
(and now here comes the scary bit:)

‘What? You mean – like a SKULL?’
‘How’s THAT an encouraging image at all?’

Ever since then
skulls have been an emblem
of forbearance, or tenacity
or that faintly annoying, saintly kinda capacity
for gritting your teeth and seeing things through
(Yeah? And look where THAT philosophy gets you)

Now mum’s dead
and it has to be said
(although I’m wary of sharing it)
infinitely grinning and bearing it

Because let’s face it (pun intended)
Death is just sticking power super-extended
Absolutely no-one bails on death
‘Out, out brief candle,’ said Macbeth
and that was a guy who knew quite a bit
being up to his neck in it