I find him asleep in his chair
head hung as though bashful or ashamed.
Something gentle in his breathing undisturbed
so that to disturb it would be like a cruel wind
come to unsettle the peace of things.
Best to remain unannounced
to rest nestled against his large shoulder.
To lay my worn hand over his soft as a baby’s
and feel how such a deep sleep
smoothes out the wrinkles.
Just at the moment
time began slipping away that was the moment he asked me
Don’t you have anyone you can talk to?
I had been holding his hand all day.
Do you want me to go?
Amazing how everything—the tufts in his nose his ears
the hair he has left on his head and beard
has all dissolved into white except for his brow
still red with consternation.
No he says I don’t want you to go.
It’s just that—he looks troubled.
I’m not sure I can help you.
a woman called Sylvia wants to leave.
She is saying this as I arrive and my father
is turning the page of a newspaper.
I can’t stay here says Sylvia.
She is wearing her coat and carrying her handbag.
Can someone call me a taxi?—
Sylvia asks for taxis the way my father turns the pages of the paper.
She says her son is expecting her, that he will be here soon.
My father peers through his glasses at the newsprint
while the nurses tell Sylvia she should sit and wait.
The nurses tell Sylvia that her son has telephoned.
I have a son? Sylvia is surprised.
She sits down like they asked her to.
My father raises his head noticing I am here
and looks as if he means to discuss with me
something that he has just read.
Once we were playing at being old, now we’re
the small ways in which our bodies have started
against our minds. In company we are
nods and smiles, tea and friendly conversation.
we pull each other aside, find a corner,
to reveal this blemish or that mark, and run
fingers over parts of ourselves. Touching
previously reserved for doctors or lovers.
confess to me that you have hard spots near
your mouth which don’t seem to be going. ‘Do you
get that too?’
you whisper. And with my hand over my mouth,
like the young girl I was, I breathe out in sighed
I lie. Because although the spots do not seem
to be hard upon me yet,
they or some other heralding soon will.