Two of Five Pieces


Called from pleasures

I go tap-tapping down an old man’s back

down the skin of eighty summers wasting

on a rib-ladder closing

on a history of heart and lungs.

These narrowly contracting bags I find, proclaim

“Today his chest is clear as yours or mine.”

This is the news required

as the tide of vigilance

laps his sheets each surfacing dawn.

“He’s doing very well.”

He leans his gaze to the voice dinting

the routine of his room

but slides the focal point towards infinity

past those gathered

to the motes of memory

to where

pinned in the wind

through their age and bond

her sacrificial flags go fluttering

battered and fastened into the room’s corner

hinged haggard to his unhinging.

In this too a workless son and centreless

clock-bound slave

to the incontinent brain and its seepage.

Two tight-wire walkers

well talked out by nine each bed-wet day

the backyard hoist their prayer-wheel creaking.

The sheets flap up the scent of their detentions.

Time in its time will track them round their modest corner

novice at the final question

voting through their staring man a triple fate

when wind or human weather throws his way

a decent threatening pus-serious good infection.

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Correspondence to Malcolm Parker.

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Parker, M. Senility. Bioethical Inquiry 11, 151 (2014).

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  • Public Health
  • Focal Point
  • Final Question
  • Good Infection