Bed Blocker ~ 8/7

An early morning call summons me north
to your death-bed. Delayed by London’s chaos
after yesterday’s bombs I arrive too late.

Mary has kept vigil through the night,
soothed and reassured you, arranged for Mum,
also in-patient, to visit you one last time.

Curtains closed around your cubicle
on a busy general ward, your neighbours
are waking, nurses impatient to hurry you

to the next stage of the terminal process.
You’re letting the side down, as you used to say,
being a dead weight among the optimistic sick.

I know this person must be you
but their face has caved-in, mouth open,
beak-like, after exhaling its last breath.

I reach for your hand – still warm and supple.
Death hasn’t crept this far.
Do I imagine a reciprocal squeeze?

You’re wheeled away briskly for last offices,
and to free-up bed space, so we visit Mum,
whose mental fog obliterates her loss.

Leaving her, we pass someone
who looks more like you, than you just did,
who sits up and smiles at us.

This iteration of you, raises a waving hand
in recognition and greeting. Or farewell?
We don’t make eye contact in case you vanish.



Clare Marsh, an international adoption social worker, lives in Kent. She has M.A. Creative Writing from University of Kent and specialises in poetry and fiction, often exploring dark themes.