I hold his hand.
Broad palm. Strong fingers.
Underneath the fingernails
a crescent of black ink,
and on the second finger
a pad of fat has grown to rest his pen.
All those quill pens. And the paper.
So much writing…..
He bought this house with words –
and hence had few enough to spare for me.
Virgins when we met, and married
six months later. Our first girl
came three months after that.
You can add it up.
It was not words which bound us both
but deeds and shame.
That’s why he left for London.
No word for weeks, and then a hurried note,
a bag of coins, an empty promise.
That was the way of it for years.
Then our boy died. My grief was real enough
though his was make-believe and came too late.
Now he’s back here to die –
a kind of compliment, perhaps
or simply a return to his beginning.
I do not know.
The sweats that left his flesh corpse-cold,
the dry, hoarse cough
all that is done now.
His slow breath whispers wordlessly.
Beyond the candle light a blackbird spills
bright pearls of sound
across the velvet dark.