Beautiful poems written for a dying wife

  At just 110 pages, Dennis Haskell‘s book Ahead Of Us is not big on quantity – but the sentiment and expression within its


At just 110 pages, Dennis Haskell‘s book Ahead Of Us is not big on quantity – but the sentiment and expression within its pages are enormous. Haskell’s words are profound, ironic and, at times, whimsical.

I know at first hand the path trod by the author as the life of a loved one ebbs away, as will many another reader. Ahead Of Us is a journey including events before, during and after, along with a number of reminiscences. I found the writing evocative and, at times, raw and sensitive. For example,


Your driver’s licence
renewal notice
arrives in the post
innocently enough
 – after all, it’s just
a notice,
part of the trivial,
administrative detail
of our lives. 

You must choose:
one more year or five.
“Just one,”
you say, playing
the Scotsman’s daughter,
“I wouldn’t want
to waste the money;”

and something funny
folds up
inside me
and keeps trembling
its flimsy paper breath.

Ahead of UsAt which point Haskell’s words evoked personal memories; my eyes lost their capacity to focus.

Everyone who has lost a loved one to illness, or through any cause, should read Haskell’s book. We none of us pass through life unscathed. Death and loss must be accepted as part of life; learning from another’s experience is frequently beneficial, a sharing in which, through empathy, we understand the other’s hurt. Through that understanding, we gain strength in the knowledge we are not alone in plumbing the depth of emotion within.

 Ahead Of Us is good reading, a beautiful companion. I recall, on two prior occasions, recommending a publication for book clubs or discussion groups; this is another. Its continuous reading would consume no great amount of  time; its interpretive reading, on the other hand, most certainly would.

How does one review a book of this ilk? Perhaps better for Haskell’s words to weave their own tale:


You never see him move
but now he sits silent
in the expectant corner
of every room you enter.

It is his appalling serenity
that hurtles you
into lip-bitten anger.

Though he stares ahead
as blank as eternity
his eyes never leave you,
toast your anger into melancholy,
melancholy into the concession,
the bathos of self-pity. Injustice
finds you everywhere. You can declare
that this is your room,
your house, trespassing
will not be tolerated
but he knows who is trespassing
on your useless proclamations
and will never forgive them.

His silence is the future of noise,
his poise the futile end
of restless striving. Arriving
in each room you
may close your eyes
and resolutely say you do
not believe in death.

But, true or untrue, death
will never
not believe in you.

This delightful work is the eighth book of poetry by Dennis Haskell, AM, a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia (among many other things, mainly to do with literary excellence).

Ahead of Us by Dennis Haskell is available now from Dymocks.

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