Hard now to forget
the unwashed paper face
dead a week or more
stranded on his bed

tossed up and dried out
like dogfish, tangled net,

on an untrod, windswept shore.

I looked, but dared not touch;

looked, but had to flee

into a death-free room
with tulips on the sill
clenched in the morning sun;

he did not trouble much

shuffling in the gloom

of his mud-walled terraced shack –
the weekly trip to town,

free meal at the club
stirring his stew around;
his hearing aid turned down
when, crouched in the western wind,
in the thickly-breathing queue –
he watched for the last bus back.

Umbrella Head​