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.
Father sings Russian lullabies as he drives
the coast road, the island like crushed glass.
We pass beneath the kissing trees.
One, two, three, four, here comes bunny for a run.
Five, six, seven, eight, here comes farmer with his gun.
Ready now, nine and ten…
I watch funny bunny burn in the living
room stove. Ember eyes shine and fade.
Synthetic fur shrivels as flames swallow
my beloved black and hollow.
My fist clenches a secret lock and I crunch
Frosties from a Beatrix Potter bowl.