Poetry

NEWLY STRANGE

I draw aside the curtains that
Cut rectangles in the room
Where two other old men
Sit like sentinels:
I wonder if they make sense
Of the space they cannot see,
Or the plastic bag in which
I hold his clothes.

His eyes still seem to follow with a
Dimmed intelligence,
Under lids that the
Night shift never closed:
The animated larrikin
Who used his dentures to scare kids
Has a bandage round his head
To hold them in.

His skin is ashen yellow,
But a hand laid on his chest
Can detect a last,
Subterranean warmth:
Comparing our complexions
As my hand encloses his,
I can trace the path of veins
Tightened in.

He timed his words for emphasis,
like a comedy routine,
Stories that he told and
Told again,
Winked at me a secret as he
Made mischief for my mum,
Took a tablespoon of
Honey in his tea.

A body so familiar
Becomes an object overnight,
A relic
Bearing evidence of life: the
Pencil fixed in compass
I find later in a drawer,
The materials
Of an engineer.