Part One- Feeling The Shadow

In The Final Analysis

In the final analysis

I am living my dying

Aching step by aching step

Tremble by tremble of my hand

Pill by pill (when I can afford them)

And hand by helping hand.

I carry my body now – it scarcely carries me

And the ‘I’ has to fortify itself to keep it moving.

In the final analysis, tomorrow I will be gone.

Losing Control

“I look around, and ask myself, when did I lose control of my life?”

Andaiye, telephone conversation, 2012. Cancer survivor of

over 20 years, indomitable organiser and advocate for justice

and rights, she had slipped into that zone where continuing to

live and keeping her ill father alive meant depending on others

for care, where sitting quietly in your space, knowing where

your things are, spending your time as you wish, moving

where you want, when you want, how you want, were the

indicators that defined her loss.

Dear Mama

Dear Mama,

There will be no-one to lovingly wet my parched lips with ice,

as I did for you. No-one to sit by my bed just for company,

as I did for you. No-one to doze nearby in the night, waiting

for my calls, as I did for you. No-one to take my head in her

hands and lower it, as I did for you, while you took your last


There will be no Ruby-Doo to serve me soup and sit

unhurriedly while I sip right to the end, put the dish in the

sink and return to me, as she did for you, leaving the dish to


No-One Wants To Speak Of Death

No-one wants to speak of death

And yet

Songs and prayers of eternal life

Will not make it forget

To come to you

Will not shift the moment

Into transcendental otherness.

My bones are dying

And my muscles are giving way

Gymnastics notwithstanding.

Part Two- Fighting The Shadow


Coffee In Bed

The 1st. of July. They take the cast off tomorrow. Time for a

new start: a new day is coming, a new phase. Time to prepare.

Today I am going to try something I have not tried for almost

6 weeks. I am going to bring my coffee to my bedside table and

sit and read the Sunday papers that have been sitting on my

bed since yesterday. A first step towards the past and into the

future that I want to have again.

I raise the leg, set it down gingerly with the other, lean over

and reach the crutches, mount myself, stick-walk to the

bathroom, pee, wash my hands, and decide “no wheelchair



A Feminist Bends To Time

My brother is 66 years of age and he is living the process

of his dying. So am I. I am 68 this year. Those looking on

assume he will die before I do: my dying does not enter their

thoughts. I am not so sure … (Journal entry May 12, 2013)

I prepare to visit my brother in an upbeat, joyous mood,

having crossed the threshold from agony to acceptance of the

role that conscience and connection have propelled me to

play in his life.

It is a weekend, Sunday in fact, and his partner is off to look

after her mother, who can no longer walk. I sense that this

is a welcome escape from the burden and misery of living

with my brother, who can still walk, insist on driving his old

jeep, sometimes into trees on the sidewalk, and pursue the

tinkering with car parts and construction rescue missions for

relatives and friends that has filled the bedroom with tools

and car parts that keep him connected to life, and gives it


My Brother Is Travelling

My brother is travelling, slowly but surely, fighting valiantly

more than I have ever seen anyone fight a shadow that is

part of himself. He is fighting the intuition of the inevitable

reality, its imminence, the sinking into nothingness away

from the light and beauty and busy-ness of this world.

Today I felt that moving away, that imminence, that

inevitability, more emotionally than I have up to now, more

deeply. I feel with shock and a new consciousness that the

meaning of time must change, has changed.

Blame and hurt and logical analysis mean

nothing now. All of that has been washed away by the flood

of absolute empathy, not only for his physical pain, but for

the complex emotional, mental and spiritual jungle through

which he is journeying. And there I may go too one day …

but that’s another story.

Body Talk

What yu mean yu not feelin good,

Yu feelin droopy-droopy,

Yu have pain all ova

An di foot-dem nah move as dem should?

Look ere, yu betta get up an get movin

Because di “I” inna yu an me caan go nowhere

If yu no move.

Yu hear?

Me a go gi yu a Panadol

Fram di bedside table

Since yu decide fi move di han

But yu betta git up afta dat

Because me nah

Tan right ya so.

“I” an “I” inside a yu,

An if yu nuh move

Mi caan run!

Me have tings fi do

An me caan do dem widout yu;

Part Three- The Shadow Is

What You Meant To Me

(For Sonja Harris)

Style: Rasta feminist 70s hippie mix At once rebellious and sedate.

Seated, you rapped

About the strapped Black women, Red women

White women dynamics

And through it all

Knew your friends

Stretched to meet their seeking arms

Wrapping them in the vibrant

African roots colours

Of your inner sanctuary

Then danced with them

Through your smiling eyes and face

Stepping out of the inner you

Into the shared light.

For Nancy

(Adapted from “Words for Alice after her Death” by Angela


We have made room in our busy lives

To deal with your loss

As we had your illness.

You asked so little.

I am stumped with your elegy.

I’d rather rub your back

At your request

Or get your glass of rum and coke

With lots of ice

Or run to the pharmacy or the shop

for something you needed.

This Poem Is For You

(For Sonia Rochester, fighting for life)


This poem is for you

Because I know

The dark, hovering shadow of death

That no-one names but you,

And only in your mind.

This poem is for you because

I know we have been blessed

With test-runs when we sank

Into the depths, and faced the end

And summoned God

To pull us back to life.

Last Words

(For Minnie Phillips, after the Hope Garden Remembrance,

October 2018)


You are remembered now

For what you did and who you were

The panegyrics and the tributes abound

Not one word about those last years

Of pain

Of caregivers grudgingly acceding

To your needs and desires

No empathy to soothe your rebelling mind.