Absent Without Leave


Flat on his bed in ICU, he reads pillow stories;
starched landscapes of the broken
road to Basrah carved in skin.

Beyond the window Wakefield drifts,
wet roofs and one naked
willow under billowing skies. He twists

that way, this way to see the tree
and Nil by Mouth taped to iron railings
while dust and paint shavings tally

time. The clock on the wall clings
forever to five to five.
His mouth is a desert storm.

In the morning, soft shoes slip slap on linoleum.
Nurses giggle, shuffle behind trolleys of tea,
dispensing toast and potions of sweet opium.

At night, they play cards under a green lamp.
Out of range, the falcon’s shadow
maps his name on the wall.


Original photograph by the author