The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize 2021 Shortlist
A Very Old Story
Have I told you the story
of my mother’s mouth —
my mother’s weeping mouth,
toothless in pain, her
mouth wounds, the
bleeding palate, the
blood on her chin, the
blisters, the clear run
of the sores on her
gums, her lips swollen —
during that time she lost
all her coordinates, but
pushed back, pushed back
hard at the dark from the blur
of the pain and the blue blindness
of her eyes without their glasses?
Of her bed of days? Of her sleeping,
the light and heavy on- and on-ness
of rest I hoped would heal what had
hurt her? The mouth of my mother?
My mother’s mouth.
On the ninth day of that time,
resurrected like the unremarkable
miracle of every woman whose luck
ran out when she married, my mother
spoke from a mouth that had been broken.
Her sentences were clean as hospital sheets. No,
I have not told you about my mother’s mouth.
It is a story longer than her own life.
KARIN SCHIMKE is a poet, writer, translator and editor. She works from Cape Town. Her Instagram account, where she talks about books, is @readingdarling.