Her last few days and nights
flashes of light and dark in
grey-blue eyes that know that
sight will soon abandon those of
tethered, tied down, waiting souls,
unblinking, fixed on her or those
unsure of where to let them lie.
I think I hear a soft, sharp crack
of slammed shut eyelids as if, of a sudden,
half a dozen giant gnats have
smacked right into six of the overwiped,
off-white, slippery, red-rimmed things
that a surgeon, brandishing (as they do)
small armouries of slicing knives,
in different contexts and different lives,
might laughingly label the sweetest kind
of jellied eyes (for home-made pies).
And all this leads, in some it seems,
to a need to sneeze noisily or for nicotine –
the sheen of the day now wearing off,
leaving perhaps a dry, tickly cough –
any distraction in fact that requires
remedial action outside the door,
ideally some distance down the corridor
or (better still) another floor. Most of those
here, however, anxious not to be thought
short of decorum, do work hard, despite their
ins and their outs, to prevent small distractions
becoming angry shouts – the result, overall,
being to coax into shape a percussion of sorts
comprising their snuffles, sniffs and shuffles
(but confusing rhythm with rhyme.
Some move their lips as if aware of a lyric but
rarely dare author the words or the lines.)
In the meantime, eyelids shut and stuck with
a mix of saltwater, the soap of the day and
a vigorous squeeze of used tea leaves,
she trains the faint light behind failing eyes
and finds – whilst not a complete surprise –
as she pushes the back of her head into
her panoply of pillows (of the reproductive kind),
deep seams of the dead, the living and those between.
She knows the faces come from inside her head
yet can feel them right there in the middle of
the pillows (soft as marshmallows); and she
sees the sense of, and welcomes, this chance
to speak and listen, conversations not yet had but
bearing a logo, a label, a badge of truth.
Thus prepared, and with a little care,
each face is instantly recognisable; and
it needs only a few well-chosen words
to enable her to distinguish infinity from
oblivion, each one sowing a seed of
a peace of plenty, a peace of sorts, an
alliterative peace at least, if nothing else,
to accompany a reconciliation, a reckoning,
an understanding – each its own triumph.
She has been concerned about the slow
dragback of the heavy drapes but I can
see from her eyes (blue-grey, now still) that
she knows now it’s just a step on the way,
the end of a night, the start of a day.
And though we, from the past, may have
followed her here for a necessary halt,
a crystal clear finish, an unequivocal END,
we know that the bright ward lights that have
to date lit her face and flooded her skull
must soon make way for a more subdued,
more learned, more permanent illumination.
I pass my hand slowly through her hair;
and am sure I can feel a new light there.