We spoke of Russian swans and green tea
funerals and snow diviners as our ways wended
from sofa and armchair to the winter brimmed
wide window he came to measure with precision
matched only by the knot in his gold coloured tie

tied after dawn’s ritual with bark and petalled water
tinged air cedar and mandarin and almond—
ablutions practised each and every morning
down careful years now a liturgy of self silking
characters in the spare monosyllable of his name

quiet on my tongue as I wondered what the salesman
would say if he could see himself a nursing home patient
some quarter of a century hence with ruby elixir
and emerald linctus still staining his creased chin
two hours after the medicine round was done

if he could see his soup shingled checked pullover
the unused toothbrush twined with silver hair
beside the shrunken Christmas cactus on his locker
the dark crescent moons looming under nails
if he could feel the damp face cloth used to rub

his face and hands and sometimes armpits in the rush
that states all residents must be up by nine fifteen
because that is when breakfast is and always has been
if he could taste the raspberry food supplement
in lieu of timely spoon and encouragement

would he ask before care came to be left alone
on a northern beach in his black suit and ivory shirt
in night hued cedar and mandarin and almond
shaded now with hints of Siberian juniper as tides
gather there among the gathering white birds.