The boy in the next bed was dying
of a disease with a fine French name.
No fruit, no flowers, no cards
wishing at his side. He had freckles,
curly hair the colour of coal tar soap
and Dr Barnardo’s for a home.
We strayed, whenever nurses looked away,
used Fagin skills to pry Fry’s Chocolate Cream
from the vending machine in Admissions.
The boy leaning on the push
handles of my wheelchair, dragging
numbed feet, sometimes losing a slipper.
At night the pain came stealing.
The boy, a brittle whisper
crept into my bed and I held him
close, close as skin,
nose to nose, forbidden
mint breath clinging.
We drive south into a ferrous wind.
The sky unclenches. Fingers of rust
stain the peaks of Morven and Scaraben,
old blood on a crumpled sheet.
The land trembles with yesterday’s news.
Barbed and shredded. Bales of hay sheathed
in pink stack the sweetness of last summer.
Sheep dot and dash the fields like broken
teeth spat into a steel bowl. Crofts cower,
trees twist into submission. Amputation
-dislocation. Strike a pose. Resistance
is futile. Across the border smoke rises,
thin entrails signalling your departure.
If I had my life to live over I’m not sure I would do anything differently. Life is a journey, a series of crossroads, roundabouts and T junctions without any signposts to guide the way. At each intersection we must make a choice. Our decisions are based on limited information. Emotions, intuition and experience colour our judgement and we choose what we think best at the time. We evaluate, we take a risk or not. Whatever path we take there will be highs, lows and plateaus but the journey will not necessarily be better, just different.
The truth is life is unknowable. Crystal balls and tea leaves will not help. Surrender to your journey wherever it will take you for it is uniquely yours, your own fascinating story. Enjoy the highs, learn from the lows, rest during the plateaus. There are no good or bad journeys, only what was meant to be.