Monday, January 22, 2007

Visiting Raymond

As I queue again at the end of the M67
where the traffic never sleeps,
crawl down to Glossop
then across the top of the world,
I’m thinking, what do I say this time?

As the road angel on the dash flashes red,
chirps out its electronic warnings to me
my mind tunnels deep
beyond the black and the brakelights,
I’m thinking, what do I say this time?

As I roll down the bends from Buxton
to Chatsworth, ninety miles behind me,
everyone else going home this Friday night,
or queueing in their chippy,
or buying their lottery tickets,
or getting a few cans in,
I’m thinking, what don’t I say this time?

Just after he was flown home
I first drove the drive, the nurse said
‘you’d better say goodbye, don’t get many as bad as this,’
but that time I didn’t have to say anything:
he couldn’t hear me anyway.

Now, months later, he hears, he talks. Well,
a version of him talks, like a circuit
that keeps shorting out as he switches
and flips in butterfly conversation
that trails off into sleep.

The good leg stretches out,
the good arm wraps itself around him
and the good eye closes.
I pat the blanket.

And as he sleeps
I siphon off from the decades,
from school to now,
the best of times where
we’ve talked, drunk, played cards,
fished, loved our women,
where nothing could change the way we were.

And as he sleeps
I recount the litany of codewords and gestures,
the bridge bids of a relationship
I smell the superglue that welds us
I see how we enjoyed our difference down the years.

And as he sleeps
my headlights slice back
through this High Peak dark,
the guys on their mobiles all ask
how it went this time and between us
we agree: that’s what I’ll say next time,
that’s what I won’t mention next time.

And as he sleeps
we all go back to our chips
and our lottery and our cans
and these undisabled lives of ours.


JoeBlogs said...

Good writing. Makes the M67 sound like the yellow brick road.

Anonymous said...

Some wonderful images in the poem tinged with sadness verging on melancholy. The emotion is genuine and one empathises with both the writer's and the poor invalid's situation.
However, the last verse comes across as trite, the last line particularly so. The writer attempts pathos but achieves bathos and I believe he is too good a writer to be satisfied with that.