Called to identify

The body of your own child

Contorted by the views of the world

Now some semblance of peace found

On the operating table

You taught him to tie a Windsor knot

Never thinking it would

Be the way he’d seal himself

In all his handsomeness

Two decades later


Gangrene seeps across the beds

Like the ocean bloom

Of coral reefs

Untouchable turquoise blues

In all shades of grief

I stood motionless in the background

Like the extra on a movie set

And watched your undiagnosed trauma. 


I can’t remember attending lectures

On how to comfort distraught parents

But over the years,

I learned to cry on the inside

Much like your son.


So now I’ll wait in the coffee queue

And have my fingers drift over autopsy reports

The way his mother’s fingers would have felt

A fever

Both of us barely awake only separated by

Different points in time

A scattering of pills flushing

The moments between us


All the colours of his life

Are now destroyed in an

Incineration machine

Bloodied sheets

cannot always be inherited.

How terrible to think

That you know that now

The way I do.


Shabnam Shehan is a 19-year-old university student. By the time she graduated high school, she had four Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition awards (2 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze), two world prizes in IGCSE English Literature and English Language, and 98% in her final A level English Literature exams. Her poetry manuscript Notes of a Finifugal Mind was shortlisted for the RædLeaf Poetry Award in 2016. If she’s not studying medical textbooks or reading medical novels excessively, she’s often found listening to Boys II Men whilst writing fiction.