He sits smoking in his room, fingers like the jaundiced walls of degradation. Staring out of windows will serve for entertainment, hope lies in the sound of crunching steps on the gravel, a letter falling on the floor, until the day he can make that trip no more
He taps the roll up on his weathered
seat, strikes the match
towards him as an old man should, a box
of ‘England’s Glory’ and tobacco bag
thrown at me, as if they weren’t
all his worldly goods.
“No thanks, I don’t.”
He shrugs as if it’s my loss,
cups the yellow light with
the nonchalance of a friend, his hands
raw and dirty. He draws, a near
toothless mouth collapsing
like worn bellows;
he exhales, deftly aiming a spit
of spare flake to his right, while knotty
fingers wipe wet lips— the sound
of sandpaper on wood. And so
the coughing starts. There’s little else
to fill the new day.
You cut the harmonium strings
and I’ll tie them up each time,
pedals getting higher and higher
till almost vertical, unplayable.
And for what?
Does it spoil your peace?
Do my attempts at sounds,
at music, offend you so?
This family doesn’t do talent, I know.
There is only work.
But you needn’t have worried:
When I came down today
there was this space, gaping,
and through the kitchen window
I saw the fire in the yard,
the contented man, smoking