Doctor No Much More

He feels the weight loss that he still calls hunger.
He wishes to hear English native spoke,
or was that spoken? Harder to remember
alone inside his nearing-empty mind
with him Humpty-Dumpty bumping down the wall
at the bottom of the garden. Night time falls.

He goes inside and lights the guttered candle.
He pours his cup, last of this morning’s tea.
He disinters a banger. It revolts him.
With eyes tight shut it’s nourishing, he assumes,
so he throws bits at the cat he found that’s blind
and they both eat tea in silence. Midnight falls.

It is early somewhere warmer, he is thinking.
Not stinking darkness. Never rising damp.
He takes his diary down and tears out pages
that he holds above the candle, watching smoke
glow into flame then falter and char dark.
The cat meows, which seems to say it all.

He watches ash fall on the antimacassar.
Downtown the church bells ding-toll 4 a.m.
The neighbour, the one working, starts her car
for commuting to the hospice where she reigns
when she isn’t drudging, which is usually always.
The candle gives the ghost up. All is dark.

A silver lining on an ancient bookmark
succumbs to tarnish and his nervous thumb.
He rubs. The cat meows. All is less clear
than they told him back when he was graduating
and when he bought this practice and became
the general practitioner for this town.

Getting On

He was tired of being old. He chose a body
from the vivarium of the opulent hotel.
He watched the steps. Staff priests removed its soul.
Technologists blanked its memory. He moved in.

He is twenty-eight again! For the fifteenth time.
The fit young brain rejuvenates his mind.
He gifts the brain the wisdom he’s accrued.

The motion sickness made by melding minds
attracts the front-desk staff. A bellhop aids
his sprightly ill-coordinated walk
to pay his bill, and exit through the door
that says Exit, but should say Vivarium.

Hominy Creek Wandering

The wind brings back the barking of dead dogs.
I hear among them yips of childhood friends
And their snarls as they protected us from threats
In woods now cut and on country roads now paved.

I watch the wind’s work shaping grass and trees
Into silhouettes of dogs known: pointy ears
And cold noses. It is strange how one supposes
These fleeting vivid images are not real.

© Alan Reynolds, 2012

Nearing There

‘You have twelve more years,’ read the angel. ‘Erm. that’s twelve more minutes.
What do you, I mean did you, want to do
with the rest of your life within these finite limits?’
The angel watched me take this in and stew.

‘That’s eight now,’ said the angel. I was whistling,
making mind maps of the places I should visit
if I did had time. Death’s scythe persisted chiselling
at the stump of my lifespan in a rhythm to elicit

a shiver with each chip. I was not buying.
‘It’s a dream,’ I told the angel. ‘You and Death
aren’t really here. You two have not been allying
except in those gory stories like Macbeth.’

‘Till now,’ said Death. Death grinned without a face.
‘There always is a last time,’ the angel added.
‘Don’t you mean “first”? I asked. They both embraced
my pedantry a moment. Then Death patted

my arm, that froze, and said, ‘you’re down to four.’
I sang a childhood song to show sang froid.
Death said, ‘This does not seem to be your year.
You’ve lived your life as if it were a schwa;

neutral, muddling middle, bland, unstressed.
You’ve not done aught that you must answer for
so question time’s not needed. Face stage left,
adjust your collar, try for debonair

as we get in step and march. You’re down to two.’
The angel turned the parchment page and said,
‘Well bless my soul, it was years!’ (Death withdrew.)
‘What will you do from now until you’re dead?’

Non-U Socialising

‘I am old,’ said the Durac, ‘and riddled with charm,

so I live all alone in The South.’

The Slynog replied, with a sound like it cried

though it moved not a part of its mouth,

‘You are eusocial, Eugene, eugenically broke;

you give over too early to wrath.

You keep seeking the reeking unriddling of All

though you look for it only in Math.’

‘Am I truly eusocial?’ the Durac essayed.

It pleasured him slightly to toy

with the sensible Slynog whose ‘sensitive’ seethed

under bedclothes of logic to buoy

up a billow of bubbles of misapplied thought.

‘I’d have thought that a taut skein of cells

in the skin or the blood were eusocial while I,

like an unaxoned neuron or bells

unadorned by book, candle or swung-about cat,

am waiting alone though we meet.’

The Slynog, who nurtured its own hermit past

with plunges through bloodstreams to eat,

said the Durac was right, and remarked that the light

was marvelous this time of the day.

Then they parted imparted with illusions they’d shared

a moment. Each went on its way.

Guest of Honour

He’s the only stranger here among his family.
He is strangely silent all the time he talks.
The mirrored walls reflect his animation
and he sees that, though he swears he’s sitting still
as the rubber flowers on the hotel’s tables.
A wall of sound wafts by him but he fails
to capture joy or meaning from remarks
of kindness addressed to him. Disappearing
into his cell phone’s menu like it matters
he swipes and taps and wishes he could cry
at reflections from its screen of an old man
so lonely he updates his own Sent Mail.