Giovanna MacKenna can be found looking at the black bits of life and finding ways to make them shine. Her work has been published by Nine Pens, Robida, Abridged, SouthChild Lit, Bear Creek Gazette, Brag, Tether’s End and The Speculative Book 2021. She can also be heard on the Eat the Storms poetry podcast. Giovanna is currently working with The Museum of Loss and Renewal Publishing on her debut collection.
Someone else's ending
My father’s ending came first. It was surprising
to him, to me.
He saw it there, immovable before him
as if all other life had been replaced
by a gaping chasm of death, bleeding
across his once-expected future.
I kicked and screamed and wept and stabbed at it. He
stepped calmly, readily, into its black, silent embrace.
My mother’s ending was postponed, delayed by her flaming energy.
She was affronted by death’s early arrival;
the decade she had counted on, reduced to months.
She was not pleased.
Her ending nearly broke my life.
She bare-knuckled her way to an extra year
denied her ending, at the end
clawed back a scrap of living
from death’s sure hands.
My mother stole the minutes, hours, days.
She made death wait
with every slowing beat
each failing organ an affront
she keened for her life as it left her.
After your funeral, in a house weighted with people
you had known and loved and loathed, I stood, under
the narrow attic stairs and turned the pages of the book
I’d made. The book with photos that showed you grow
from bold-eyed infant immigrant, to blazing adulthood
to crochet-wrapped and smiling in the hospice garden.
Visitors flowed around me, bitter coffee and tiny meringue
clouds flavouring their talk, easing discomforts. A woman
I didn’t know hesitated as she passed. I grasped her hand,
pressed pen to palm and asked, Will you write about my mother?
Later, when there was nothing left but dirty plates and echoing
rooms, I found the stranger’s words for you: She took me in.
She taught me how to make an omelette, so I would not go hungry.
It is the thing you find at the back of a drawer
when clearing out your mother’s house.
It is the object nestled in the dusty, fly-corpsed
grey of a wooden corner amid layers of old
receipts, rubber bands, dry pens and keys
that have lost their doors. There it is, silent
crouching, stealthy, the one small thing which
at first glance, has no form other than its mystery.
It is the fragment you salvage, dust off, polish
slowly with the corner of her old blue cardigan.
It is the thing you hold to your breast as you
sink down onto the pins of your grief.