Not Being Me

by Lizzie Cook:

Born in Harrow Weald 1946. Flirtation with BBC TV, punctuated with travels in Southern Africa. Co-author of 'Sugar Off! A Practical Guide to Sugar Free Living'. Four children, three grandchildren. Lives in a Victorian house with a cellar and a leafy garden in the Cambridgeshire village of Cottenham.  Works for Citizens Advice Bureau.


My dead mother’s face in the mirror,  now gone
Gone with the Catholic threat of purgatory for a lapsed soul.
Did she die, that mother of four,
consumed by this thing called Christian Science.
Belief killed her off, but they didn’t say so.
They didn’t say ‘cancer’ until after she was dead.

I didn’t see her thin body.
I dreamt her alive, walking casually about her business,
in the streets,
not in her lovely garden, now lost to her. 
“How is your mother?” friends said.
“She’s dead.”
And then I knew it was true, and I wept,
the school found out.
Not from my father.
He grief-stricken? Perhaps.
Her name banished from his lips, until it was too late to tell all
Too late to let me mourn; too late to let me be a sad child.

When I found her grave there was a mound of ivy to tear apart.
Beneath the tangle was Marjorie;
In Loving Memory, Died June 1960.
The pity of it breaks my spirit and I weep.
“Where have you been? I was looking for you.
You didn’t die did you? You just went away.”

Her face has faded and she no longer meets me on street corners.
She’s gone away.