A (Steam) Fair Diagnosis

I noticed the tremor in his hand
which seemed to be driven
from his bone-high wrist

as if he were deftly turning
an invisible threaded nut
and spinning it quick
up to the bolt’s bare shank

His wife’s coffee was spilling
in that grip as he turned to me
and she took the tepid remnants

He smiled and announced
his own diagnosis just that week –
but he knew it well before –
how unwell he was becoming

The engineering marvels rolled by
under the sure wheel and steer
of coke-puffed mechanics

Each boiler and firebox was riveted
or screwed and wrenched as one
We tremored as the showmen rumbled

Echo

He was moved down
to ‘The Departure Lounge’
and we were reduced
to the daytime whispers
of his night duty shifts
as required ten years earlier

but then Dad was dying
and his bed was grounded
almost as if the next stage
was another eased lowering

Three decades on
and I now look to a room
which is equally flawed
but my expected years
are not that finite reduction
of a terminal Illness

I struggle with this shift
from first floor to ground
but it will make life easier
for all in our household
I say I struggle with this shift

I, the Draughtsman

‘The Irish have the greatest command
of the English language’ Discuss
Some West Indian poets may disagree
as would others from further ports
of our whore-explored tongue

This waking moment lets me wander
in a drunken reverie the words of Wallcott
but I haven’t dropped a touch in a week
apart from that sip of gin and tonic
which I was asked to consider for taste

In the house children clunk on floorboards
and the eager dog patters and follows them
My eyelids measure the paucity of my sleep
Later today my fatigue will make a grand entrance
just as I need to be alive to connect the lines

Only Being

I convalesce under the counterpane
with the play of evening birdsong
and that blood rush roar of jets
lifting the propped sash higher

The late light on the roofline tiles
is almost that Mediterranean red
against the flat chalk-blue sky
but I am rolled up in Sussex

The same songs will find me
waking in the same place
as the light and sky are turned
and the curtains are ripped

Then this moment will return
of me laid low by the small efforts
which others do not notice –
I have lost the art of only being

Checks

Earth Wind & Fire boogie
in the muted waiting room
But no one dances here

Adverts for vaginal creams
and local dry cleaners
rotate on the large screen

A mother instructs her kid
The patience in her command
fails for ‘naughty little girls’

An elderly couple openly flirt
in the propped-wide doorway
and exchange a loud kiss

My hands turn numb and stiffen
as I wait my turn for ten minutes
of a qualified person’s attention

Luna

‘Slumped’ would be a good description
of my state after the coffees were delivered

I cried as little as I could as we dissected lives
which crossed and recrossed around us –

like those thousand circling aircraft overhead
with thousands again also slumped in the sky

The restaurant was empty enough for tears
and for private speeches about why I cry

I am now the sad old man in this odd kinship

Weather Warning

This apprehension rumbles –
one only audible to me?

I fear the threat of loneliness
Of old age’s inherent adage
being forced by the separation
which is executed under my hand
but has been otherwise decreed

I fear finding that all time has gone
and is then a compression to death
and then the flatline without recovery

I fear for the future of my children
because we have stolen their hope

I fear someone finding me frozen
in a bed
or chair
without them knowing me well

Planning Permission

I look up at in-need houses
but have to correct myself
as I do when I see the hills –
they are no longer
in my striking distance

My perspective is robbed
being weighed by the weights
which are my lead boots –
these heavily polished toes
which are re-scuffed by this

You see me slowed on the street
but still smile at our lives
and take me out to get drunk
as families quietly fall apart

There is no reason to fail on this
quite inglorious road trip
unless you get fucked
by an incurable illness.

No Natural Death

“For a man who has done his natural duty, death is as natural as sleep.” Santayana

Here we meet again
you are no longer my friend
you the jolt   the itch   the portend

This disappointment
which sleep is for me
it is a lonely thing

It is as if rest
itself
is now my disease

as if my unwritten register
of simple expectations
no longer allows its admit

Yet I will drift in day time’s impolite light
with eyelids weighted just enough
to stop me seeing

This puzzle of so many pieces
that each night has become

This my lost friend is you
my agonist
again

 

Honesty

As we suck in murmurs
I shut my eyes
the endangerment less
of that to cry

To explain in plainspeak
this fixing of pain
is to convert the Jews
to Christian games

Dinner is served
in a heated dish
as I drink red wine
which bleeds bullish

We hang the evening
like a bull in blood
the severance of such
is of all once loved

And I cry like a blackbird
that hazardous rasp
as tears hurt my face
in this regular farce

Saturday

The weekend recolours
into the red wine stain
inside my rip run gut

she takes me to sleep
under these weighty dreams

They vainly organise
all the light
into a Looking Glass

that hyper-realism of repose

in which I now struggle

as I do in the day’s slow death
of this reducing disease