next county over

the agency got me a delivery number

driving a white panel van taking medical kit

to ill sick people across the county

first I had to find the equipment in the warehouse

picking up bedpans lifts ramps hoists the docket said

load these into the van working from supposed 8 to 5

finding my route via paper plan & sat nav

to remote places I had no ideas as to where

I was always late finishing no time for coffee

one handed eating a sandwich other driving

running onto the next the next stop dropping off

you know I quit not that I couldn’t get the job done

finishing most of my days sometimes after seven

but because

the people I delivered to bald headed angels

glowing with spirituality the serenity of close death

fierce cold coursing deep in their fine blue veins

frail old men in never got out of rancid beds

waving to me quietly pleased to see a live body

someone new tending to their terminal needs

glittering eyes in white faces from their loved ones

me a fresh face to speak to in their grind of living hell

but because

I was not strong enough to take these blows

killing me too slow in their pain of always arriving late

leaving too soon to go on to another level of pain

not there yet

I took the longest time

coming in from the cold

avoiding people

interactions the places

people go to meet

not quite getting the signals

misunderstanding the simple

it seemed there was a code

everybody else had clues to

& I didn’t have the key

I tried beyond anything

those around me knew

my mewlings seemed another

language dialect speech pattern

nobody had any idea to what

I was rambling on about

so again I withdrew

& I’m still trying to come in

out of the cold slow unsteady

pushing on only too aware

I’m not there yet

for a second maybe two

I was stunned

not knowing what I was seeing

& then I knew

clear as I saw him kiss her

the way he put his hand

between her legs

this was not their first time

my body moving from heat

rage lava anger to cold

my head freezing

turning away

legs walking as thru’ mud

kept on walking walking

finally found home

tossed her clothes

toiletries into bags

called her friend

please come over take these away

changed the locks

pulled the curtains

turned off the ‘phone

sat for a long while

tried to breathe

waiting for a time

until I could open my eyes

unsee the seen

there were notes letters

phone messages

but I never saw her again

because I knew

I could not trust myself

with her

ever

again

up in the mountains

stopping for coffee

feeling the thin air bite

cold on my fingers tongue

rushing in for warmth

snow ice all around

thin guy hanging around

sell you a blanket bud?

white buffalo

Pendleton

forty bucks?

& too intent on coffee

getting to the warmth

I passed up the chance

on the great white buffalo

now when I hear Nugent

I know the river came close

& I passed it by

but for a few seconds

the call of warmth coffee

that could be mine

not enough

we sat in the cold

having nowhere to go

listening on the radio

or if we had money

for batteries

a tape recorder

playing Alice

Led Zep the Floyd

& Jethro Tull

because we knew

how it feels

to be thick as a brick

shut out of the parties

unwelcome at home

our feet worn at the heel

wanting something

anything to come take us away

this cold pretence of real

& now he has forgotten

all of those days

telling stories of love happiness

no days of worn coats

nothing to do

but sitting on benches

with nowhere to go do

& whatever we had

was not enough

to last in his feels

sketch

cigarette smoke

curling in the air

blue against grey

white walls

she wanted to draw me

as I sat thinking

tho’ I was wondering

how any of this

just might work out

until she threw the pencil

pad paper down

shouting

fuck it I’m done

take me for a drink

now!

it would be a year

before the sketch came back

it was me

but not a me

I wanted to see

cold aloof alone

but by then

she too

had moved on

benign neglect

They finally killed the old bull

not on a sunny summer afternoon

with a sword & cheering adoring crowds

reflecting honour & courage

but on a cold January

of benign neglect in a hospital

he’d been left to die in

hips broken after falls

one & then the other

deposited there by his second wife

(the first ran away from his rage)

of forty years deciding

she could not do care for him

though she did visit after bingo

hair appointments & spending his pension

a slow lonely death not in glory

as befits a strong willed man

the worms in his head taking away

anything he had left of his life

& when he did finally die

his workmates formed a guard of honour

though none knew after fifty years

of working side by side

he had any children until

that last day

all I had to do

drifting to sleep

tired & alone

times I was thinking

if this was down

to anybody

who I could blame

these shoulders cold

the chill filling the room

all this is mine

I made it my own

turning down women

ladies who would’ve stopped me

from feeling the cold

kept me high & fed

tucked up my head

warmed up the bed

& all I had to do

was keep sayin’ yes

when like the fool I am

I kept giving no

burnedout

living low

shit always happens

places get burned out

the rain thu’ windows runs

the roof comes in

& all you can do

being poor

find someone

somewhere

safe tonight

share out the pain

sleeping in a single bed

as the windows

let in the cold

wanting more to come

& she resents your poverty

almost as much as you

just almost

because she was asked

if tonight she could share

& you found her depths

her limits on care

understanding

it is not only places

get burned out