two months in, he can barely remember
a time before, has pared life back
to weekly shop, the bins, a newspaper
that yellows on the kitchen table
puzzles half-finished, headlines unread

he sleeps late, wakes early
snoozes in the afternoon
his hours, it seems, all out of season
the structure of his life dissolving
like tissue paper in long-awaited rain
lacking any rhyme or reason

he talks to ghosts
swears he rolls over in bed
and finds the weight and heat of her there
reaches out to nothing but cold memory
switches the light on, creaks downstairs,
stands in the back door
letting the night in
and waits for sunrise

by day, he shares crumbs
with the blackbird and robin
who come into his kitchen for food
names them, tells them stories
of his childhood, chuckles
of course, that were before your time
is rewarded with birdsong

twice he has snapped to
standing at the window
clasping a mug of sugared tea
he can’t recall making
and wouldn’t drink for the life of him
has poured it away,
boiled the kettle for coffee
found himself later sipping
once more sugared tea

those first long ago weeks
he thirsted for the bar, for evenings
marked by the smooth glide of a pint
now he watches bees get drunk on nectar
loses himself in the slow rhythm
of poppies opening
and the antics of squirrels

in the early hours, alert and sleepless
he walks the town as streetlights
click off one by one beside him
holds his breath as the dog-fox
trots home to curl and snooze and dream
so close he can hear
the pad pad pad of paw on pavement

in the east, colour starts to bleed into the sky.
he wonders if he will ever quite return
from this new normal.

© Steve Pottinger

This poem was commissioned by Multistory. It has also been published as part of Carol Ann Duffy’s #WWWAN project.

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