In the middle of the night, the curtains closed
I hear the rasps of a spade somewhere outside,
the sound of hard-digging, long enough
for a deep hole, but there’s no earth here,
developers and concrete have seen to that.
I take a look and see an old man wheezing
in the half-light, cleaning the blown sand
from his doorway, a wheelbarrow nearly full,
the wind playing a sentimental hoarder
already replacing the sand he’s taken away.
If that sand was then used to fill hourglasses
that might be all the time he has left, or me.
He has all this time at his feet and hands, yet
I am not sure if it is time spent, or still to come.
There’s a photo of me, Mam’s favourite –
16 years old, taken through a broken sash
at the old post office, after the rains.
I look away from the camera but cannot
remember what I’m looking at –
perhaps the twisty road to the sea
that ran down out of sight, and kept
going all the way to this older me,
looking at my younger self
who will not meet my gaze.
The last time I went to see you,
before I came in, I bent over to take
off my wet, grass-bladed shoes
and when I stood up again, my head
was swirling with tiny, spermy stars
of light and you asked what
was wrong – I blamed it on hunger,
thirst and tiredness from running here.
It happened again, a little burst of stars
when I put my shoes back on to leave.
I did not understand then, but do now,
it was a sign that a constellation I use
to map my fumbling way with
is lost when a person like you dies.
If you have any comments on these poems, Richie McCaffery
would be pleased to hear from you.