Room Service

by Nick Rice

We have no stretcher cases here, nor sirens, shrieking
emergency and blood. Infirmity arrives sedately,
wearing no bandages, for the bleeding stopped long
ago. Now there is only scar-tissue, the site
of ancient battle-grounds whose origins
no-one remembers.

There are no visible fractures and we have not the technology
to mend the cracks that widen between reality and dream
Sometimes we are your children, given boiled sweets,
asked questions which we have no time to answer.
Sometimes your mothers; you are pettish, querulous,
needing love

and we offer you bedsocks and barley water, air cushions,
laxatives and Benger’s Food. We rub backs and tauten
draw-sheets, empty commodes and fill hot water bottles,
check temperature and pulse. Linen snaps and crackles
on the line, junket cools on larder shelves; our world

to the rhythm of your hot-house rooms, the chronology
of senescence- twilit world, crepuscular, as though
the time were always evening, the season perpetual November.
See how our shadows slide before us, down long corridors
where carpet digests our footsteps. Listen
at half-open doors

to the conversation of curtain-rings, the gas-fire
whispering. Here is your supper tray. Let us rally
recalcitrant pillows, light lamps, turn the flame higher,
keeping back the dark. That is what we are good at, though
we know, as you in your brief moments of clarity know also,
that we are

all guilty,  we are all partners in a grand conspiracy
of silence, for the small hours are hurrying towards us when currents run sluggish and the pulse ebbs. That is polar
night out there that pushes at the windows. It is quite
star-proof. It will exhaust our feeble candle-power. But not
tonight- not yet.