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Karen Mooney – Last Rites

Profile Mooney LEP&W Sept 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing September 2021 Mini Edition

A career in human resource management provided preparation for Karen Mooney’s current activities; cats and words.  Sometimes they hide, reappearing unexpectedly; sometimes they scratch, sometimes they purr.  Her words have appeared in online publications and Penned In, co-written with Gaynor Kane published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Her own pamphlet is due to be published later this year by The Hedgehog Poetry Press.


Last rites

The world would come crashing in around us
in as many days as it took to make
when you return to the care home, conscious
of our presence, attending your own wake.
You perform a rehearsal one evening;
we gasp at what we think is your last breath
then you rally to sit up, eyes gleaming,
ordering breakfast – your last before death.
One by one, folk call in to pay respects,
sit in silence or give a knowing nod.
You aren’t fit to speak, yet touch does affect,
as one lady proved and how I applaud
her cradling your face in pillow-soft breasts;
prompting memories, you smile, feeling blessed.


A close shave

I smile at the buzz of the electric razor,
knowing that you like to be clean-shaven;
feeling proud of having pieced it together
after you cast it across the table, declaring it fucked.
Until I catch your stare. This cuts deep.

Anything mechanical intrigued you,
rarely defeated you
but today, you wear exasperation
like a dry shave with a blunt blade.

Lessening dexterity thwarted once skilled tools,
your hands. Hands that could carry hold, lift,
repair, protect and even attack; shovel-like
and calloused now soft with lessening use.

Your attitude would soften too; in time.
But now, as your grip on the day lessened,
you bristled against it, so I applied the balm,
moving in the direction of growth.

Flipping open the casing on the shaver,
I flick out a spring, close it over,
check that it is silent and say
Yes, dad, you’re right. It’s fucked.

I shaved a jumper today

Knots and bobbles caused by wear and age;
so unsightly that I take one of your razors,
draw it carefully across the garment
in mind-numbing strokes, thinking of your
once smooth scalp, before the bumps appeared.

The woollen fluff gathered by the blade
leaves me strangely satisfied. And yet
I run my hand across the surface, checking
that everything has been removed
whilst I wait… for your surgeon to call.
Wondering if she, too, got it all.


Waning Gibbous

It’s just a phase, you say,
withdrawing, hump faced,
darkening my nights,
leaving me to turn in,
to find my own light.

I, too, can change,
rid out negativity,
throw open windows,
clean, clear and sage
the corners to let go
of fear; knowing
that someday soon,
I’ll meet the new you.



unique provenance     well-seasoned       concentrated
on high heat   lid off        simmering             reduced
yet packed       with flavour    smacking        of life’s
experiences        just   a small       portion    now
it doesn’t go  far           the     spread    across
the plate   curtailed     condensed      by
life    age    ill health      distilled
to   extracts of what matters
creating a memorable
aftertaste leaving
us wanting


©Karen Mooney