Jean

Jean in the corridor. I flatter her to see
she’s just the same – a disbelief in self
that makes her think she’s good at nothing.

Today she takes me on one side and asks me
when I need to know about her coming to
my wedding. “I have to have some surgery

and they won’t know till then. I may need
radiography.” A pause long enough
to hold the word that has such weight

no tongue can lift it when its time has come.
A desparate conversation of the eyes.
Funny how we smile. Things pass

into suspension. We walk through doors. The air
warms, it’s summer. Nature teems,
grows, greens, is good. A superabundance

of life believing there’s no knife or winter
to cut it back. “Just turn up on the day,”
I think but do not say the “please”.

“Well, I don’t know. Sometimes, afterwards
You don’t feel so well.” “That’s true,” I say.
But air and words between are like a mask.

We reach the door. The turning point.
“This’ll teach me to look so closely
at myself in showers.” She looks regretful.

A dust of oxide on a precious metal.
“It’s just as well you did,” I say.
Later we see each other through

so many windows as I teach my group.
She’s getting organised for something and she smiles.
How close it is, that smile, and far away.

Tarporley 1990
Eventually, alone except for her sons,
Jean died, about 10 years later
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