Machines assist but only doctors heal.
Some specialists in fact are so well-heeled
that they take to their heels while patient queues congeal
to link up foursomes. Golf’s a crowded field
and par takes practice. Dying patients feel
partaking in robotics ought to yield
a surgeon clone equipped to play the part
of a caring healing doctor with a human heart.
(ottava rima; last line has, appropriately enough, an extra beat)
It’s open house in the dead folk’s home today.
The bright sun shows no shadows. Empty light
laves limestone markers. Children outside play
but here, inside, the shadows wait for night.
Entombed regrets accumulate, give way
in turn to melancholy tunes that fight
for breath to give them more than memories’ sounds.
All fades away, subsumed by fresh-turned mounds
of humid soil. The scratched panes of this hearse
reflect no light. Inside, no mirror marks
the driver’s breath. No notepad notes his curse
and no one’s here to count the motes and quarks
of flesh half gone to Hades now, or worse.
The shovels striking arrowheads throw sparks
illuminating tribes no longer here.
Silent watchers wait the lonely bier
to weight it down with yet unspoken words
and stories told in futures we can’t fear.
The dead folk’s home is mindless of the herds
of scapegoats buried here the awful year
the plague achieved majority. Two birds
whose plumage blacks no-future nights don’t hear
no-words the chauffeur’s phantom wants to say
but pose with wings up poised to fly away.
They cannot budge. No mortals live inside
the dead folk’s home, not even feathered things.
These birds are props set here back then as guides
for visitors, and scarecrows guarding rings
among the mausoleums. They deride
the hopes their makers had, and doleful pings
(no wind makes them emit) elicit but
wan silent echoes of their task to shut
down hopes of succour for us everyone
who man this dead folk’s home, where honoured bones
and humble dust exchange their finite fund
of molecules. The children’s (playing outside) mobile phones
don’t penetrate this atmosphere. The dun
and acrid ether draws no tears. No moans
disturb the mounds and hearse. No Vespers douse
no comfort lights. It’s always open house.
He leans into the wall. That makes me shiver.
Not ‘against’ but ‘into’ – he’s flaunting that he’s a ghost.
I have to convince him I think he’s alive or
he’ll fly through me. That’s his shtick I hate the most.
We talk about the good times we experienced.
We reread ageing email notes we shared.
The twilight comes and goes as if the day sensed
how our meeting leaves reality impaired.
He asks me to remind him how it feels
to feel anything: heat, anger, hunger. Love.
I ask him what if anything Death reveals.
We try but tire of finding any answers.
The wall resists my imitative shove.
We realise we are using up our chances.
‘You ought to be sleeping,’ my muse says. ‘Not reading the news.
That abets your insomnia and lets your tired dendrites confuse
your immortal whatever with a raft load of facts you can’t use
and the futile illusion that you could fall asleep if you choose.’
We live and breathe inside our gunnysack.
A fusion lamp illuminates our days.
It hides at night behind a paper moon.
Plants grow in our rich loam. Sometimes we’re happy.
A lifetime of denial leads downhill.
Our young at heart live like they were immortal.
They look away when we are eating dirt.
I sing of birds, remembering how they looked.
I might as well be whistling. Memories mix me
a toxic cocktail topped up with regret.
We need palliative care. Caretakers turn their backs.
They turn their minds, pretending they are good,
into echo chambers. They hear what they shout.
On the verge of morning, diving boards collapse.
Please click photo to enlarge text.