John O'Donnell

John O'Donnell, Barrister, Poet and Author



What I remember thinking first when I walked in

as my sister turned and shook her head, saying “She’s gone,”

is how the light continued pouring in through the big window

without pausing to acknowledge any sense

of what just happened, the sun’s early brilliance landing

on the bedclothes, on the tubes and dials and switches,

and on the slumped flesh, the sunken cheekbones of my mother,

who seemed overnight to have been carved

out of marble by Bernini. And after we’d all embraced,

and I’d leaned in across the pillows to kiss her forehead

that was already cool against my lips, I thought

not of the years she’d carried me, and held me,

and then, when I insisted I was ready, let me go,

without ever really letting go, although I did think

later on, and later on again, about all these things, and more.

No, no: what I thought then was that this shameless,

brutal impulse to make art, no matter what; this itch,

when it comes crawling, that you can never scratch enough

meant that one day I would set down these tiny, useless marks

and somehow think that they were equal to all of this

or even to the sunlight falling for the last time

on my mother’s face without occasion.

– John O’Donnell