I was in Manchester Art Gallery a while ago, in the small cafe at the back and a woman came in pushing a wheelchair in which was a man about her age. He had no coordination, no control and she fed him juice or water from a blue child’s cup with a lid. He was her husband. She asked me just to keep an eye on him while she went to the loo. She looked grey, exhausted, tearful and I wondered if she’d come back.
She parked him near the window
rasping at the light
circling his head
his neck straining tendons
the juddering pulse of jaw in his temples
as he spoke but didn’t speak
the shock of a fox-scream of a chid
in a gallery of
quiet, low bass murmuring.
She put on the brake and went,
a minute or so alone in the ladies.
Locking the door
she rested her head against the cold metal paper dispenser.
‘What if you just left?
What if you pulled open the glass doors and
walked in your soft soled shoes
across St Peter’s Square to the library
and on to the place where the Halle used to be and
to a train and the parallel lines of track reaching into the distance?’
No. Go. Don’t come.
Don’t come here into my head
gorgon, tempting, curling your finger.
Her arms spanned the cubicle, bracing wall against wall.
‘They’d look after him.
You could sleep,
walk with bare feet on grass,
fly soar into clear blue.’
She washed her hands,
avoided the mirror and went back to him.
The door, soft hinged, slow-closed,
the hand dryer unfinished.