SESTINA

When you were ill I feared that you would die.
I held you as we sped along the road,
Siren blaring, held you when the push
And jerk of bored and tired porters threatened
To overset you, sat and held your hand
When you at last lay back, breathed out, and slept.

Time passed – tick – tick – and I too slept,
Slept as I now wish one day to die,
Easily, in my chair, your hand
In mine. Then woke at dawn. Outside on the road
Clouds hold back the day, rain threatens.
Soon the shifts will change, some nurse will push

Me out. I gaze, observe the suck and push
And suck, and suck, of your laboured breathing. You slept,
Now you are calm. What will they do? Death threatened.
Or was it life that threatened? When we die,
Blake said, we are born out of this death: the road
Does not come to an end. Upon your hand

The line of life leads on but vaguely. My hand
Has clear straight lines, lines that push
Up onto the fingers, mark out the road
I tried to read on your hand while you slept,
The road that I must follow till I die.
Your road. Once, more than once, you threatened

To leave me. You did not mean it. I too have threatened
In fury, but when you gave me your hand
And promised to stay with me until we die
I believed though I’d been given the push
So often, seen the door close, slept
Outside the door or on the open road.

And I don’t mean figuratively. Door and road
Were real. Only I was not. Was threatened
As a passing ghost might be. I slept.
Years went by. Now I hold your hand
And watch your lips and hear the suck and push.
It was always me in some sense playing I die.

Outside the road awaits. I kiss your hand,
Feel the push of little veins threatened
By life. I learnt to die while you slept.

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