Bags of Bones
An old couple I saw at a market.
Bags of bones in tallow skin.
Balding heads – hers kerchief-wrapped
Hiding chemo ravaging.
The wheelchair rattles over cobbles
Spilling earth from the hardy annuals
Perched on her precarious lap.
She grumbles, “Mind that lorry!”
He chuckles, “I ain’t blind yet, Mother.”
But his cataract op. is long overdue.
“Careful up the kerb!
You’re spilling me morning glories.
You’ll be the bleedin’ death of me.”
“Remember we climbed the Three Peaks?
The year before we had our Jack.”
“Jack? What happened to him?”
“You said the hills looked blue steel grey.”
“I remember those hills… blue, steel, grey.”
“You always said you’d go back and paint them… one day.”
“I never did. What hills were they?”
“No, mother… you never did… we had our Jack.”
“Did I not? Jack? Who’s this Jack? Don’t know any Jacks.”
“He went away… long time ago… don’t trouble yourself.”
A tear welled and trickled the corrugated guttering of skin
Drooping from cheek to dimpled chin.
“Jack! So smart in his uniform. Will he be back soon?”
The old man stops, wipes his eyes.
“Any day now, Mother. Any day…”
She smiles, “It’s a long long road, is life.”
“We’ll be home in a minute, Mother.
You have yourself a nice long sleep.
After your nap I’ll bring you a cuppa.”
“Is Jack coming for his tea? I’ll bake him a cake.”
“Yes, Mother… we’ll set him a place… he’s on his way.”