A Poem to My Mother That She Will Never Read
I have a new poem out in the world, 'A Poem To My Mother That She Will Never Read', which has won the 2021 International Mslexia Poetry Competition.
I got the phone call from the editor of Mslexia in the UK telling me I'd won the prize the day before my mother's funeral. What an incredibly bitter-sweet moment.
|photo credit: Glenn Hayden|
It's a special win for me because the poem recounts what turned out to the last time I saw my Mum in July 2021. I flew to Perth from Adelaide to see her in November but while we were in the air the West Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, made the decision that all passengers from South Australia would have to quarantine for 2 weeks. My planned trip was only for 10 days. So, I landed in W.A and 2 hours later I was on a plane back to S.A., without seeing my Mum The same hard border controls were in place when I arrived in Perth in January when I knew Mum was in the terminal phase of palliative care. ie She was dying. But the W.A. Health Department wouldn't give me permission to see her on the day I landed despite writing begging emails, despite sending phone footage of my mother's breathing in which the death rattle is clearly audible. She died during the night. Did her death spark some kind of compassion in the powers that be? Maybe so. Because 9 hours after she died I was permitted to see her body in the Aged Care Home. I was allowed 30 minutes with her before being taxied back to hotel quarantine for 2 weeks.
I am sorry, I hadn't intended to bother you with some of the traumatic details around the day my mother died. My intention was to write about a poetry win. So, let me tell you that I'd only just finished writing the poem back in December before I submitted it. I ignored my own advice, which is to sit with a poem for a few weeks before you do a final edit and send it out into the world. Sometimes you've got to override your own advice. Let other people be the judge, for better or worse. You can read my poem, the judges report, and a little about my writing process at the Mslexia website HERE.
Those of you who know Ocean Vuong's work will recognise the inspiration for the title: Vuong's A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read. If you haven't read this wonderfully gifted poet and author, I highly recommend him.
It's not the last time I'll write about Perth's hard border control and the West Australian government's lack of compassion in pursuit of a single goal. Keeping vigil on Face Time and grieving my mother during hotel quarantine has made me fearless. I'm hatching a writing project around this. Do you know anyone who was prevented from being with their dying relative/s during Covid? If so, please leave me a message in the comments. I am keen to speak to them.
Be kind. Go well. One thing I've managed to do this week is set up a Buy Me A Coffee (Ko-fi) account. If you're in a position to donate the cost of a cuppa to this poet, you can do so HERE. If not, that is totally fine. Look after yourself. And thanks for reading.