Two friends of mine, hardly blood brothers,
have this in common: that they lost their mothers
to heaven or a better man at the tender age of four –
the same age as Beatrice when they met us.
Like all my friends they brought her treats,
teased her sweetly or applauded her feats
so that I thought, how good – they are healed –
they are here with us grown ups on the other side.
Until I noticed how when Beatrice cried
the great racking sobs of a child who is tired,
or defeated, or strung out like straining wire,
these friends followed when I carried her to bed,
stayed for the story, the caressing of the head,
waited for the bottle, the curtains drawn across
on a room full of children and their irreparable loss.
Thanks to Finuala Dowling for permission to use this poem, first published in her anthology I Flying.