Last Night She Saw Badgers
He stands at the school gate
hunched and trembling
like a tree at winter’s rise.
The air is glue. I wade to him, each step
taking all of my twelve years.
He is grey as the rope we found in Orkney,
coiled and faded on the cliffs of Ronaldsay,
worn out with hoping for the rescue
that would never come.
The car is waiting.
We must go to London now, he says.
Death waits in the car, unspeaking.
I too am silent. The blood rushing
in my ears like howling trees
is noise enough for me.
I do not grasp the journey.
It is over in moments.
I am contracting time to reach my mother
in her sad bed in the stale ward
where my two plastic Star Wars toys
stand against the coming dark.
Too long I have waited in the deathly quiet
of the Vicar’s house, unspeaking, ungrateful,
mapping out how I will run away to London.
Too long without news and contact,
the dreams I’d shared with her as a child
rising again like tides too urgent
for the moon to pull them back.
Last night she saw badgers, he tells me
as we walk into the hospital.
I remember walking with her to see a badger’s sett
on the other side of the valley, the orderly piles of dung,
the cowslips, the dusk.
Last night she saw badgers at the end of her bed.