After the Parasites Came
I draw my grandfather’s lungs
in charcoal spit the fluid in his throat; tremor
in art as is the shaking
hands when he goes to lift the tea to his lips.
Making leaves in old mugs transferred to sipping
cups and the brief illumination of
the body choking on life.
All the sounds of his life are the sounds of death;
pumps and footsteps, Scouse laughter whistling
heat lamps like a surgical table
(running through a temporary, heartattack wall)
– the wheeze of 87 years in grey plastic and taped up tubes
(we need to return it when he’s dead).
Does the light in your eyes show you your dead son,
or has the baby’s cry of Jesus followed me from one room to the next?
Would you have let me grow my hair, and shave
my wrists rather than my jaw and read
books on French existence and homosexuality?
– Arthur! if you’d had your strength!
Meat when living, now a king in his Camelot;
hospice nurses bring sunlight,
chatting to bone and open eyes;
Who said death was a private affair,
after the parasites came?
I never knew you were an atheist,
and I pretended to God on your bedroom floor,
where you’d left him after Michael died.
Afterwards, we heard Nan perform her Cleopatra,
and beg a gone you to hold the door wherever atheists go.
I think she wants to be buried in a church;
while we all dress up for your cremation and spend more
on your coffin than you ever had
in your pockets
after the parasites came.
When the undertakers came, blood of my blood stood
behind them to make sure meat was treated right.
What dignity, Arthur, in your death!
Empty gums and stained dentures on a flat tongue,
tasting shadow rabbit stew;
miner’s muscles flat on the bed;
mechanic’s mind gone senile – all the