A House by the River journeys through the six years Diane Fahey lived with her mother, Patricia, as her carer, and ends at a point five years after her death. Both the challenges and radiant moments of the relationship of mother and daughter are given enduring form in poems that hold the tension between hope and truth, charting a gradual grief – then loss, and its aftermath.
The same life-tide that swept us
apart has brought us to this grateful,
elegaic love, the hub we turn on –
Demeter and Kore becoming
each other, held in a graced affinity
between loss and loss. Twilight summer.
A House by the River is also, in part, a record of the poet’s creative life, sustained by the worlds of art and of nature. Along with the garden surrounding her mother’s house, Fahey celebrates the wider natural environment of Barwon Heads, opening out – as in Sea Wall and River Light – large perspectives of river, sea and sky, with the presence of birds an unfailing inspiration. But the central power of the book lies in its engagement with the mysteries of healing and spiritual resilience, as Fahey witnesses to the courage and grace of her mother’s last years, so leaving a memorable portrait of her.
What would I need to know, to wear sunlight
as richly, sparsely, as you do now:
your face tilted to receive the wind’s balm;
that look of earthed serenity; body
poised as a cormorant’s, wings outstretched.