That Sunday morning
she didn’t see the winter sun,
seeping up the wall, or wake
like him, before the first bells
had sounded, to fold his night-shirt,
place it neatly on the bedside chair.
She didn’t hear him go downstairs,
pull the latch and step out
naked into the street.
That was when she moved his bed
into the small back-room,
the key on a string round her neck.
At night she’d lie listening
for him stirring in the dark,
thinking of long-ago dances
In those last weeks he never offered
a single word to anyone but God,
reading his Bible by the glow of the fire,
a long finger chasing each word –
Thou art my hiding place.
The last time I saw him
he was standing at the kitchen sink
as she bathed the white flesh
of his back, a ripple of ribs
showing through like a frost
on the roof of the coal-shed.
Years later, I’d remember that
when in one of the Prado’s
dim rooms, I saw Ribera’s
Saint Andrew, half-naked
and lost in thoughts of heaven,
the angular bones vivid
under pale skin, dark lines
scored above the eyes, still
and deep as the pool of Siloam.
James Caruth was born in Belfast but now lives in Sheffield. His first collection A Stones Throw (Staple) was published 2007 followed by a long poem sequence Dark Peak by Longbarrow 2007. He has had two pamphlets published by Smith Doorstop, Marking the Lambs (2012) and The Death of Narrative, which was a winner in the Poetry Business Competition 2014.