For Margaret Phelps and Mary Veronica Lang
After the cups of tea and gifts of slippers
we always went to Rookwood Cemetery –
walk train walk again in swimming heat,
me bobbing behind your trailing hand.
To a small boy, your mother’s grave
alongside her stillborn grandchild
looked like a door or pebbled floor,
somewhere to rest after the long trip
safe inside the concrete arms, away
from buffalo grass, the nip of prickles.
No need to caution me about respect.
You knelt on newspaper and looked hard
at what a year had left. Life doesn’t respect
Death – the plastic dome of flowers cracked.
You had the hand shears and garden fork
to hedge grass back. I yanked at runners.
Both graves looked better for the work,
white crysanths we bought from a stall
glittered in jars on the heart of the grave
– posies of bright suns awake in the glass.
Later, there was something to eat and drink
in one of the nearby hive shaped rotundas.
Lattice walls patterned us, blurring light
and shade, you quiet now with memory,
your mother out of the grave’s clean door,
joining us in the half light, sipping tea.
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