I weighed up the thick manila packet
lying on the ‘Welcome’ mat
and did not bother opening it.
it would be rammed with leaflets,
‘think positive’ booklets
with hope-filled faces of young and old
from every nation,
everyone an over-comer
‘Living with Cancer’
all smiles on the covers,
and directions to ‘Oncology’.
I am tired of lumpy pains and passing blood,
I’m beyond the age of over-coming
I lack the strength, and I lack the will.
I am sick of breezy encounters,
in pubs, cafés, or on the street,
‘I’ve lost weight and feel just great.’
adding a dash of braggadocio,
‘I’m off to Valparaiso, me,
I always go this time of year.
it’s grand, so it is,
off the beaten track.
close your eyes and you might even be
strolling the streets of Venice.
I go by coach – don’t like to fly.
you’ve not been there yet?
well, more’s the pity.’
does anyone holiday in Valparaiso?
I’ll look it up on the map sometime –
I think it’s somewhere Portugal way
late spring in Ireland
a good time
no better place to die.
a long drive;
on to Glencolumbkille.
better still, save time,
Slieve League would do fine.
no one around but me
and two thousand feet below –
celebrants singing the pilgrim pathway,
I must have picked St Bastard Bad Luck’s Day.
a cloud of witnesses surrounded me
Shirley was there and Lesley,
Chrissie who married Clive
the day before she passed away
Tracey buried on a hillside in Turkey
Lucy who slept with Tom but lived next door -
she did not like him much –
he had ‘habits’ she deplored
Rob the Gob, Joseph - smiling for once
two childhood dogs – tumours got them
a couple of black cats – looking familiar
drinking buddies I’d lost touch with and
assorted girlfriends I had long split up with
(they dumped me more likely)
who, for once, looked glad to see me.
‘you come to wave me off? I’ll not be long.’
smiles but no reply.
waves roaring below
sea birds calling
and a fellow traveller;
‘a raw day up here, alone, sir,
(his eyes went to the drop)
are you, maybe, err,
about stepping over?’
‘giving it thought.’
‘you’ll be needing a livener...’
he passed a flask.
‘... if I might be blunt,
you’re buggered if you do
buggered if you don’t...
it’s a rare day either way.’