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Leaving


in memory of my grandmother

Beneath the weeping birch,
I crouch at the foothills of listening.
The leaves whisper themselves undone
as they tread the air
for the first last time.

Afternoon light sifts memories:
my daughter, not knowing
the words for leaving this life,
brought you blankets and pillows.

Steeped in the warm vernacular of touch,
she climbed onto your bed,
placed her hand in the wisps of your hair,
pressed her mouth with tenderness
to the dip in your cheek.
Gute Nacht, Good night.

Betula pendula ‘Tristis’.
My mother planted this birch
outside your bedroom window.
In spring, each leaf unfolds
its promises, letters of hope,
in verdant green.
Winter, she is mater dolorosa,
long arms bent in sorrow,
emptied of prayer.

The wind keens through the branches.
The leaves whisper themselves undone
as they tread the air
for the first last time.



Vanessa Kirkpatrick’s first collection, To Catch the Light, won the inaugural John Knight Memorial Poetry Manuscript Prize and was Commended for the 2013 Anne Elder Award. Vanessa’s poetry has been broadcast on national radio. She lives in the Blue Mountains.