Saying goodbye

The flesh drained back on to the pillow
so his nose poked up surprising, sharp,
a single flower placed beside his head,
below his green-pyjama’d shoulders –
fragile, like a child laid lovingly to sleep.

There were signs his nose had bled –
otherwise he looked tidy and so still.
His eyes were closed, his mouth fixed
wide open in a grimace of false teeth;
his beard neat, the hair above his ears
curlier, more playful than I’d thought.

On Sunday afternoons, a child,
I’d stared so often at his sleeping chest,
convinced the next breath wouldn’t come,
that now I stared again and waited –
unwilling to believe that chest was still forever –
for him to say, ‘Hello, dear – is it tea-time yet?’

Beyond the window I looked out of,
to the outside world opaque,
unknown unknowing people crossed the carpark,
visiting – leaving – friends or relatives,
deliberately jolly, insultingly alive –
as though some other outcome could be theirs.


©Virginia Rounding, 1994

First published in Orbis No.99, Winter 1995

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