When I picked you up that day
it was no different to any bad news day,
or any good news day. Speed thumbs
were exercising the birth of texting,
that was new, as was the news we would
inherit in a few hours and dilute to taste.
You were my boy now and I tied
your oversized coat and topped
your new small head with an ill-fitting cap.
I avoided eyeing that new space between
your neck and collar, there was a lifetime’s history
living in there these last few months.
Mr. O’Sullivan hurried out of sight
around the top corner, the new kids
at the end of the park criss-crossed on feet
and cycled the road and paths,
you puffed on your inhaler and barely negotiated
the mere eight paces to my car;
earlier I had strategically reversed it into our driveway
for the first time in seventeen years.
You fell into the passenger seat like a punch drunk
and uselessly puffed again.
I wanted to cry and wondered
if there were times when I was your boy
that you wanted to cry.
It was a journey of avoidance
for the two of us as we swapped
volumes of clichés and placebo bon mots.
It was to be our last.
The fear of death was lodging
in your tired and fighting blue eyes;
there were two reasons now why you couldn’t speak.
The clinic steps ushered in a few more puffs,
as did the sixteen risers and I thought of sixteen
more reasons why you should evict this intruder.
Behind the curtain you bent life’s honour
in your beg for an extension;
six weeks he gave you.
Six months after infusing your resilience.
Through the glass partition I saw you
plop into the bed of plants,
your two empty and un-facilitating
lungs begging retirement.
I wanted to scoop you up
and keep you forever,
but you asked me to leave you be.
You were always a final whistle man,
steadfast and determined,
brave and heroic and searching for that
chin to punch, that tackle to make.
All robbed now.
You never did have time for cowards,
not until today
when you let a hero drive you home.