And In Bright Morning

Her alarm clock stabs my attic space
It’s around 6:30
On a frost-clammed Saturday
In coal-house black winter 
1973
 
I’m thrust awake
Freezing and bleary 
Last month’s – last week’s – last night’s – whizz
Is eating its way through me.
 
My teeth are crumbling
The bandage on a septic sore
Is leaking pus from a red line
Tracing from armpit to fingertip
Running like others
From ankles to groin.
 
I need to get high
I need a smoke
I need coffee
I need bombers
I need Shirley gone.
 
Shirley peels from the bed
Steps over bottles and ashtrays and
Taking fresh clothes from an overnight case
Meticulously dresses for work.
 
She brushes her hair
A touch of make-up
Checks her stockings are straight
And without turning to me
Or kissing my cheek, says,
 
“This is it, Ricky, I’m not coming back.”
 
The door clicks shut
She creeps the stairs 
From the house
From my life
From ‘us’
Forever.
 
I should have tried to stop her with, 
“Don’t go – I’ll change.”
 
She knew I wouldn’t change
I knew I couldn’t change
 
And words that may have changed lives
Words that might have created lives
And denied existence to other lives
Were smothered.
 
I rooted in drawers for pills
I took a handful – hoping for speed
I crawled to the bed and hallucinated
I was on the back seat of a bus to Wigan.
 
While I zoned out
Shirley crept in
Packed her clothes
Her scented candles
Her statue of Buddha
And left her key behind
In the tear splashed envelope
Of a “Goodbye Ricky” letter
I always meant to read.
 
We were lovers before I knew how to love.  
The Lover of Lovers had put us together
But buggered the timing 
Big-time.
 
I saw her later
Walking Lord Street
With her brand new fellah
Boring bastard Peter
 
She did not see me
I was behind a boarded shop window
Hawking blood.
 
The streets were brutal that year
I stumbled across a dying friend 
Killed by cough mixture and cold
 
I should have died
But escaped into life
By hitching a ride
To London instead.
 
I grew strong over time,
Surviving depression
Alcohol and introspection.
 
In later years we met again
Electronically
We shared memories
 
I wrote of struggles with poverty
A wasted life of loving granite hearts
 
She told of Christmases with family
Colleagues’ esteem at her university
 
We remade a ‘delicate’ friendship
Distanced by circumstance
And her terminal cancer 
 
As she lay resigned to dying 
I haloed her room with constant prayer 
 
I wonder if she realised…
 
Now she hovers off-stage
A soft glowing presence
In the wings of my days
Closer than she has ever been
Distant yet very near
 
When I step free from nature
Into the Brightness
And face to face
We meet at last
 
The Matchmaker will throw
White rose petals
Heavenly confetti
And for the briefest moment
That will last forever
We will converse again.
 
 

 

© coolhermit 2020
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