A Poem to My Mother That She Will Never Read

December 29, 2023: I've updated the original post so that my poem is now available to read and download. The poem recounts my lived experience of being a daughter whose mother is living interstate in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease during a global pandemic.

In January 2022 I received an unexpected phone call from the  the UK. I was in Perth staying with my brother and sister-in-law after having been released from hotel quarantine just a few days prior. The call was from the editor of Mslexia magazine. She told me that my poem 'A Poem To My Mother That She Will Never Read' was the winner of the 2021 International Mslexia Poetry Competition.  It was the day before my mother's funeral. It was the first time I'd won an international literary prize. It's an understatement to say that is was one of the most magically bitter-sweet moments of my life.

In the original post I'd linked to Mslexia, where you could read the poem. However, since Mslexia update their website every year and it's no longer easily accessible, I have posted the poem here. Rather than revise the remainder of this blog post I left it in situ.

photo: 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 had flow to Perth from Adelaide to visit 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 2021 when 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.

Ocean Vuong's A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read inspired the title of my poem

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. Watching her death on Face Time and grieving my mother during hotel quarantine has made me fearless. I'm hatching a writing project around this.

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.  Look after yourself. And thanks for reading.

C xx