Before anybody passes on, they come to play bowls
in their cardigans, flat shoes and flannels,
free of the day-room in the old folks’ home
where they can’t twist the lid off or pump coffee
out of the urn any more.
Their eyes are out at first, but by practice
they become accurate, able to judge
a bias or a curve before they disappear.
The green is like the sea, with a far wall
where a holiday is waiting, a fire laid out
in the grate, the pantry stocked with Sunday lunch
and cans of a favourite bitter beer.
They try their woods, trusting in the weight
hidden there, and strike out with the jack
a line everyone must follow to the end,
a tock as bowl strikes bowl and moves it out.
With their hearing aids, pacemakers
and the breeze making a case of a cardy,
it takes a minute to remember who’s gone;
first Sam, then Vera, Joe and Mrs Keith.
You can imagine what it’s like out there,
no more chit-chat or thoughts jumbled up
in the silent order of the bowling green
and the far wall that waits as we move on.