for David O’Connell

There were visitors and the visitors kept calling and we were nearly boarding up
the windows to stop them, keeping them out after it made itself heard
and the word got around. And the tumour called us
but we weren’t listening so it made itself heard through your voice
or the lack of it, pressing a nerve to your vocal cord so that all you could do
was whisper, a black hole announced by the wake of the force left behind
and there was no stopping it. But Peru was calling us urgently down its long
dark corridors from a geographical magazine, and the visitors were drifting
in and out of wards like flies and nuisance while the globe was still open
beyond plastic knives, sugar packets and sandwiches on the edges of altering beds
with terrycloth waves and lockers on wheels that couldn’t house
more than a passing through and you led me down colour-coded corridors
out to the gardens to point and name the plants in Latin
while planning a trip to Peru and we weren’t giving in.
We had travel brochures, clean clothes and a relic from your mother and you
kept drifting in and out of states of sleep and consciousness while we
took taxis cabs and trams to see you because it felt like every car was going to crash
and I brought that letter from the bank, your MP3, a Buddha and a pencil.
And we kept going in and visiting and taking you out for birthdays and making calls
to keep the visitors away, the teary-eyed ones with their long faces on
as if you were dying, for God’s sake, as if you were dying while we
were planting the garden, and shredding old letters, lightening the luggage for Peru
as the ward turned over and we checked your charts, your clothing, and rubbed
the smudges from your arms we groomed you and used hand cream when our hands
cracked open, and you kept charting our course across the globe to Peru
and leading me down different coloured corridors a different hue for every floor
and they were jamming up with visitors, flocking like birds at a feeder.
And I kept thinking of the day I didn’t kiss you when I left
and you looked confused I just wanted it to be casual as if nothing’s wrong
but the visitors were crying at the door half bent and falling over
and then

we bought black clothes and a Jackdaw smashed against my window startling me up
for the funeral, and we read your messages on our mobiles, viewed the photos
on your phone of geometrical corridors in changing lights and angles and we saw
through your eyes the days before the long haul of your bones in a coffin with six tall men whispering ‘it’s as light as a child’s’ and acting like it’s heavy
as if we didn’t know, as if there wasn’t six of them, and the dark hole calling you,
calling you under and all the people who came to the house, you wouldn’t believe
the people calling at the door, and we wanted to tell you—guess who called
you wouldn’t believe who called, and they were everywhere, as if it was real
running as if their life depended on it, scattered like rice only moving
and turning in every direction and offering to cook and to clean and to drive
and they were everywhere scuttering as if a great doom had come from above
like a storm or an opening, as if a great God towered over us, like a lid being lifted
from a coffin and the light sent them scattering in every direction, they kept flocking
and clumping and dispersing like shifting sands or silverfish
scattering from a raised damp cloth left months ago,
as they drifted in and out like flies and such a nuisance while we
dreamed dreams of everyone we ever knew dying and our daughters flowered your grave and there was no stopping it and I kept wondering did they take the tumour out
or is it buried with you.