30 Poems I am Most Proud Of #15

I lost my Grandfather (my Dad’s Dad) four years ago. You would always hear my Granddad before you would see him. Everyone in the city of Ripon in North Yorkshire knew Keith Metcalfe, and they knew his family just as well, because most of the time we were all that he would talk about. He was so proud of his tribe.

Every Sunday throughout my childhood, we would visit my Grandparents and have a big roast dinner with all the trimmings. There was always a little squabble between who would get which place mat at the table. Each place mat was illustrated with a famous Yorkshire landmark, and all four of us always wanted the place mat illustrated with Fountains Abbey.

The day we arrived at the hospital, the day my Granddad was dying, I can remember forgetting, for a moment, how to breathe when I saw that the ward his room was in was named Fountains.

Fountains Ward

That humid July night,

when my Grandad was dying,

there was an elderly man,

in a room, a little way

down the corridor.

 

He was dying too.

None of the patients

went into Fountains Ward

to get better.

 

It was as though the nurses,

in their pool of blue hued, low light,

were blind, deaf and mute.

 

When Granddad was struggling,

half an hour or so before the end,

they took their time,

like it was a trivial chore.

 

Mum had to hold my arms

behind my back, press my head

into the space between

her neck and chest

 

The man in the other room

was moaning. I wanted to sneak in

through the open door,

hold his hands,

so if he opened his eyes,

there would be someone there.

 

He was so old and ill, his body

ravaged and twisted,

like thin strips of driftwood.

 

After my Grandad passed,

after we had seen daylight

turn into night, and back

into daylight again,

 

nurses trudged into the man’s room

with masks, buckets and plastic gloves,

up to their elbows.

 

 

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