Carol Ann Duffy

Words of Absolution

She clings to life by a rosary,
ninety years old. Who made you?
God made me. Pearl died a bairn*  
and him blacklisted. Listen
to the patterns of your prayers
down the years. What is Purgatory?

The guilt and stain of Original Sin.
Except the Virgin. Never a drink
or tobacco and the legs opened only
for childbirth. Forgive me. With her
they pass the parcel. Don’t let the music
stop and me holding it. What do you mean
by the resurrection of the body?

Blessed art thou among women even if
we put you in a home. Only the silent motion
of lips and the fingering of decades.
How do we show that we love God?
Never a slack shilling, but good broth
always on the table. Which are the fasting days?
Mary Wallace*, what are the days of abstinence?

Chrism*, ash, holy water, beads
waiting for the end of nothing. Granny
I have committed the Sin of Sodom.
How are we to love one another?
What are the last four things
to be ever remembered? I go to my reward.
Chastity. Piety. Modesty. Longanimity*.
How should you finish the day? After
your nigh prayers what should you do?

*bairn - Scottish for child.
*Mary Wallace - former member of Irish Parliament.
*Chrism - a mixture of oil and balsam, consecrated and used for anointing at baptism.
*Longanimity - a word with a long history. It came to English in the 15th century from 
the Late Latin adjective longanimis, meaning "patient" or "long-suffering."