My Mother Visits Me in Hospital

My mother appears at the end of the bed
making a fine contrast to the nurses.
She is beautifully and elaborately dressed.

All this furniture, she seems to be saying,
is the flimsiest the world offers;
these cabinets with their wilting flowers

and the water jug and glass, the control
panel on the wall like an abstract painting.
Nothing matches the crease of her skirt

or the gloves she takes off her fingers
in mockery of the surgeon putting his on.
I shall have my way with my daughter

I shall bring her out of this place
of bogus and fruitless whiteness
her wound will heal under my ministrations

as the outside world fills up with detail
caught in light and love. She stands
and the sunlight falls from her skirt.

Elizabeth Smither was the third Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate (2001–3). She has published seventeen collections of poems, as well as novels and short stories. Her most recent publications are The Blue Coat (Auckland University Press, 2013) and Ruby Duby Du, a suite of poems for her granddaughter, Ruby (Cold Hub Press, 2013).

Smither comments: ‘My mother was always beautifully dressed and here she is visiting me in hospital after an appendectomy when I was in my forties. There is something fierce in her stance, for the protectiveness of being a mother never ceases; her elegant dress and accessories, the gloves she pulls off in a mocking fashion as if to challenge the surgeon, have something of the quality of a samurai warrior. She is determined to pull me back to the world of real sunlight and love.’

Poem source details >



Best New Zealand Poems 20012003200420052006200720092010
New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre writer file
New Zealand Book Council writer file