This powerful new collection combines Katie Donovan’s unflinching insight into our human foibles with her exceptional descriptive gifts. The years of her late husband’s throat cancer are charted in poems by turns tender, harsh and darkly humorous. Donovan gives voice to the carer’s duty of being the one who watches, and contains, what is both a searing tragedy and a chainlink of domestic chores. Meanwhile the sulky electrician and the garrulous taxi driver are part of a cast of unlikely extras who provide a contextual chorus from the everyday world that inevitably carries on.
Donovan grasps talismans of survival: birds foraging in the snow; her daughter’s singing – which lights up the hospice in midwinter – and her son’s success at soccer. The title-poem resists the classic definition of the grieving widow, instead capturing one of Donovan’s enduring motifs – the moment when the mask slips and the true human response is released.