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The Corpse


He shares my morning cup of tea, likes it

colder than me. Staring at the empty

blue window, he's my dad propped up

glimpsed again through the ward's swing doors.


I reach for my book, find my place

or jump up quick, wash, give myself

a close shave, inhale soap, and froth

the strong teeth he bares at the mirror.


He's a rude child. I rattle him off

downstairs, stop his mouth with muesli,

fresh fruit. Once I'd kiss him at the school

gates and get on with my life.


But he grows so fast. No time since

he was nothing but a blink in my eye,

a blank at the end of my tunnel,

yet self-evident now, so conspicuous


in the tube some woman stands up

and offers me her seat. Though my feet

are killing me, I decline, my smile

tightened by his grin. He knows me.


inside out. He's like a parent

come to collect me from a party

I've just started to enjoy. Ridiculously

punctual. Oh, he can wait. Yes, he can wait.


And he does, exchanging ghastly

benign glances with that corpse

of yours at the way we fret

over deadlines or how badly we've slept.


from Permission to Breathe (2004)


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