As a child I was acutely aware of grief in faces

my grandmother staring into forest as they

carried my grandfather’s suicide aloft, tarpaulin

sagging where he gave up his struggle

grief when my mother bowed her head at the foot of my bed

telling me she was leaving, never to return

you can’t claim what you never had

still you search, in every sorrowful eye for belonging—

we belonged with you; crowning softly, green moors

espying crescent moon, its creamy yoke through

ribboned dark, you were always there—

grief when they come now; queuing for hours through night

tallow candles tall, burning ever bright

and we think of hallowed eves of old

people loved and passed, not forgotten

we think of those we ache for, unspoken

the shame of need, a unraveled longing

stars still decaying luminous, reflecting their dying

those crossed hearts, upturned faces, tears as yet—

unspilt, glimmering jewels

she lies in her last service, quiet, wrapped in magenta

and death has a hush about it, like snow falling —

we wake to the news, we sleep with grief

our mother’s, our grandmother’s, our sisters

we lay down hate and derision, those who would say

unkind things, too easy, too quick

and like a red fox rounding the corner

she has gone with us all these years, a coin in our pocket

70 times around the sun, turning purple

folded like forget-me-nots against our breast

surely the best of us is kneeling, bowing, touching air

blowing kisses —

standing in the midnight surround, the shroud of sorrow

wrapped in cooling air

mothers carrying their daughters strapped to their chests

oval of clasped hands, clutching one generation to the next

they are down-cast, they are smiling, they are wheeled in

salutes, curtsies, slow on canes, old and new—

ochre, mahogany, teak, peach, ivory, onyx

children wondering, possessing time’s abundance, ancients

bending on sore knees, genuflecting, whispered prayer

ashes at Easter, palms on Sunday, cake for children

in Jubilee years, festooned with merriment

turned to sorrow, wreaths wait patient, desiccating

against weeping statues of fallen, ancestors

the taint of history; liturgical censing, scent of incense

and years, rolling against the other, voices—

even anti-Monarchs surprised, wiping tears away

her face, cast in bronze, in our pockets, evermore

places we have walked for generations, people we

know and do not know

the same and yet different, grief etching her poem on

their upturned faces.

I remember my grandmother, born the same year

a Marxist, she disliked Monarchy, with good reason

us French killed ours, closed that chapter

countries overrun by ideas of privilege and caste

“but their Queen,” she said, “Their Queen is one of us

she is the best of us.” Elizabeth, uttered on lips

pushing her sleeves up in WW2 and doffing courage

climbing aboard, not judgement but devotion

her service, stretching seven score years

until she lays, working until the end

waiting her eternal rest

my throat tight, thinking —

of all the mother’s we have lost, our

aching arms reaching for them through time

though they are gone; still that longing

bowing our heads, the familiar sound of

transplanted green parrots in London

their high scream against the quiet shuffle of feet

paying their homage

solemnity, and the distance between past

and present, I walk through Hyde park, turning

into the soft pathways meant for horses

and overhead chestnut trees lower their heavy fruit—

weighty and sad, as if remembering too

our collected loss, double rainbows

bright against grey sky, a touch of—

fading summer on the cheeks of those come

to press their lips to their fingers and kiss

the service she gave, its wheeling bird

crossing the sleeping gargoyles watching guard

crisp flags flying half mast, lidded in their remembrance

free now, flying high

toward her eternal home

where we all shall, in some way