Zero Four Thirty

For a man who has done his natural duty,
death is as natural as sleep.
GS

Here we meet again –
you are no longer a friend –
you the jolt – the waking itch –
the drug’s portend

This unnatural discontent –
which sleep is for me –
it is a sickly thing

It is as if rest itself
is my disease –

It is as if my register
of a simple expectation –
of a longed-for sopor –
no longer allows its admit

Yet I will drift in daytime’s
impolite light
with eyelids weighted
by the night –
just enough
to stop me seeing things

This puzzle of so many pieces
which darkness has become
You my new foe –
my agonist – my bedlam

Laid

It was as if there was no step
or soft seat that did not force
the deep stab and grip of pain
through his frame and thoughts

He had stood well for a time
but then the ill rip-and-burns
filled his limbs with that sear
which fuelled flames in turn

Bad as it was – it was not Death –
He led The Crowd to the pit –
felt his calves lock on the path –
and then sear as if then split

He rocked on his heels to ease it all
whilst he read to them The Truth –
as laid out in the lines for the dead –
but God’s words were still no proof

As the Boxed Man was loose of his ties
and was set down in the earth
his own spine screamed for a seat –
or to lie flat on the peeled back turf

By the time the priest got to his car
all of the Dark Cast were gone –
In the cold groan of the air con
he let out a tear to mourn

That was his last one for The Church –
it had turned its arched back –
to leave him to face an ill grace
and to tear up the old contract

The Living Will

My living will
must now be written –
whilst I command
my pen’s direction

I’ll instruct you Love
in my last performance –
I’m to design the setting
of my dying conditions

It will lay folded
under toungue-kissed glue
until my mind tips
from knowing you

You’re to take my scheme
from the secret place –
on the day my act
receives a poor review

You will sit with this artist
who has drawn so much –
and hold off rolled tears
for our last act of love

I am yet to hatch
the shape of my death –
But once its read out
I’ll have had a good life.

Above the Weir

The kayak wobbled
on the tamed river
as we paddled –
but out of time –
past bikini-strapped girls
and kids your age
whom we sat above
in our inflated craft

Within ten minutes
we had found
the quiet normality
of an unbroken tension
where water boatmen
skated in spurts –
here dragonflies dipped
to a secret dance
above our bright bow

We kept time for a while
and then you gave up
to let me drag routes
around low branches
and through narrowings –
I briefly quit with pain
so we were set adrift
against the nothing current
below the next weir

You held the ropes
as I tried to lift my weight
from the muddy berth –
but my legs could not do
what legs should do
so I dragged myself
up the herd-worn bank –
gripping grass clumps
to bring me ashore

I hold the memory
of that recent evening
as fondly as those of my youth
when I lived for the Thames
and her sly currents –
when I could cross
the tops of weirs –
but now I am reduced
to the sloth of the Ouse.

Holding

There are ripe callouses
on one of my palms –
a furrow of skin
in my walking stick hand

My limbs are nettled –
a tease of scratches
which paint my shins
with blood-dried patches

The constant cut pain
scythes my stilly squalls –
‘Just a walk to Waitrose’
is a distance too cruel

I lie fixed by the duvet
that weighty cover
Here reduced by time –
my sadistic lover.

Catching Butterflies

To catch a butterfly
takes a lightness of hand
which I try to employ
whenever I can

The reminder chimes
for the civic hall meeting
where the Parkinson’s carers
do all the speaking

Their therapy stirred
into cups of weak tea
and we smile politely
at the speaker’s ill ease

I’ll be the youngest
at this month’s farce –
still able to hold
a life trapped by glass

3am

These are such long hours
in this slumbered house –
that only I ever know –

so being only mine to own
when the wall clocks talk
to no one else but me –

there is no competition
for chairs or channels
as the left alone wifi flows –

I unlock the back door
and let the dawn air flood
the breath-staled room

shorting the summer’s heat
that had been held over
from another day now gone –

which was all that remained
of a small part of my history –
a short story I’ll never repeat.

Dry

The curled grey hairs on my chest
are wrapped in a heavy gown
and hidden along with my old sags

Now I can negotiate the stairs
without forcing the shame of my flesh
upon any other eyes on that journey

The verges are the most obvious victims
of this summer’s unending dry torture –
as the skin on my legs flake with the heat

but then blister into zits under the rubbed oil
that I self-prescribe to calm my cruel itch
from which there is no natural relief

I lay on the bed – I wait for my tea to cool
as my stretched out bared legs prickle
and call for rape under my scraping nails