I’m having a go at writing narrative poetry for a personal project. This is one of the chapters. I’m unsure of the rules- and this is how it’s emerging. Despite it being a true story, I welcome all feedback- good and bad.

Walking into my brother’s home in Johannesburg.

From the car, through the door, through the house ….and then I see him.

Who is this shrivelled figure on the couch?

Who is this husk with sunken cheeks and paper-thin skin?

I only know it’s you, dear brother, because of your eyes.

You fix me with a stare- too weak to grin

I hear something breaking.

It’s on the inside of me…. as I reach for your hand.

The rest of the family are on their way… will they be on time?

Yes – just.

We have 4 days with you.




We sigh when you mumble prayers as pain slices through you.

We laugh when- on medication- you want to listen to rap music by Tupac Shakur.

And we cry when you moan – as pain returns for another dance.

On the last day, we joined you in the Lord’s prayer…which you managed in 5 ragged breaths.

And we ended with “Amen”.

And then you left

– leaving me to return home with sadness in my handbag and grief as my luggage.

©Vivian Zems

Poetry Pantry #493