Tony Harrison

(1937 - / Leeds / England)

Long Distance II


Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call.


Submitted by Scott Dagostino

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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Read poems about / on: shopping, grief, believe, mother, water, alone, death, time, life

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  • David Coe (1/21/2012 8:01:00 AM)

    To all who read this poem: phone your parents and if you can't tell them you love
    them just let them know you're thinking of them.Believe me, they're a long time dead! (Report) Reply

  • David Bedford (1/16/2006 10:48:00 AM)

    My brother died 3 years ago, and his wife, my sister-in-law, has been distraught. She has maintained his voice message on their telephone still, which has caused comment among the rest of the family and people who telephone her. This moving poem for the first time made me understand her desperate feelings of bereavement, and how she is clinging on. (Report) Reply

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