This poem was published in The Poetry Review, winter issue, 2016. You can find out more about this issue, and buy a copy, online.


by Zaffar Kunial

First heard words, delivered to this right ear
Allah hu Akbar – God is great – by my father
in the Queen Elizabeth maternity ward.
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
says Herbert, is prayer. If I continued

his lines from there, from birth – a break Herbert
chimes with heav’n and earth – I’d keep in thought
my mum on a Hereford hospital bed
and say what prayer couldn’t end. I’d say
I made an animal noise, hurled language’s hurt

at midday, when word had come. Cancer. Now so spread
by midnight her rings were off.
                                                 I stayed on. At her bed.
Earlier, time and rhythm flatlining, I whispered
Thank you   I love you   thank you   
                                                        mouth at her ear.
She stared on, ahead. I won’t know if she heard.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

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