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.




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