It is only now, three weeks after your death
that I understand in the body,
not just the coward brain, loud with cicadas,
why we invented the space-walking parents
Freyja and Yahweh.
For two more weeks in this heatwave summer,
in defiance of the huge narrowing of it all
you confounded the physicians
with their offers of morphine and an effortless exit.
You gave us urgent instructions as you hallucinated:
German fighters hammering again from the clouds,
a 10 by 4 hardwood beam in the roof you were building
that might shift without an extra brace.
As the temporary rooms refused to know you
Parkinson’s shook you by the throat
and an ocean entered your lungs.
You could no longer see us standing by the bed,
but kept listening.
The insects outside were silenced by hospital glass.
You paused to thank everyone, then left.
Philip Neilsen’s sixth collection of poetry, Wildlife of Berlin (UWAP), was shortlisted in the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards 2019. He teaches poetry writing at the University of Queensland.