for Michael Callaghan
It’s your turn now. The creaking bus has
pulled up by the lake. Old friends and lovers,
sisters, brothers, have gathered here on this familiar
patch to help you bundle all your tatty bags,
bursting at the seams with so much history.
The bus is purring as you take your place,
each window holding still a solemn face
of others who are dying and who wait.
They hold you gently in their stare, then see
the angels uniformed in pairs, intoning
honeyed mantras as they swoop, to serve
all final needs with calm and grace.
Inside the ward, pinned to the bed
in the cool tent of institution sheets, you are
adrift in time, now a sweetmeat in a pastry case,
now a luscious undulating grub, within an airy
wooden root beneath the earth. The lakeside
mercy sisters come with soothing songs
and trays of silver armaments.
One swift jab and you are off again.
The open grasslands of your mind in thrall
to dizzy spools of imagery, a squall of hooves,
the herdsman’s lurid cry. Then later as you come to,
blearily, the nurses prod and turn you, like a roast.
You register some nausea and pain,
but disbelief is what pervades you most.
Your body reconfigured as a whole, you contemplate
existence and the soul. Something has shifted.
Has there been a choice? Most have no option.
You are here. Rejoice. Your eyes once glassy,
only turned within, are now examining what may begin.
Editor’s note: This is Marian Waller’s first published poem. Sadly she did not live to see it in print.