The third time my mother fell

Jane Mead

copyright ©2016 by Jane Mead

The third time my mother fell
she stopped saying she wanted to die.

Saying you want to die
is one thing, she pointed out,
but dying is quite another.

And then she went to bed.

Notes on the Poem

World of Made and Unmade, shortlisted for the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize, is poet Jane Mead's spirited and moving book-length poem dealing with the bittersweet waning days of her family's matriarch. We enter Mead's contemplation of this farewell to her mother by way of a jolting and almost perversely lively "cold open" ... A cold open is a narrative tactic used in television and films, a technique of jumping directly into the action of a story at the beginning of the show before the title sequence or opening credits are shown (as defined in Wikipedia). Comedy and satire TV show Saturday Night Live is renowned for topical, often memorably trenchant and clever cold opens that draw viewers in swiftly and enthusiastically. So yes, Mead brings us into her story with the zing of an SNL opening sketch. That the action we are placed in the midst of is that of an elderly woman falling - repeatedly, apparently - might seem troubling, but we're compelled to continue and find out more. Not without a sense of humour - in fact, fusing the senses of humour of both the narrator and her mother - this sequence is tinged with stoicism and irony, depicting a defiance that in the intent to go to bed and die, probably fuels and infuses the subject with even more life. Lending even more potency to the opening to this extended poem is the powerful connotation of things happening or being expressed in threes. Echoing her three falls, three lines lay out with blunt simplicity the mother's determined words, followed by an emphatic punchline. Mead's opening has set an indelible tone and pace for a singular examination of death and dying and, subversively and gloriously, observing life along the way.

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