Tim Love: Taking Mark this time

I remember you once showing him our photos upstairs.
I couldn't hear his little voice, only yours.
"That's mummy when she was little .... Yes darling,
people do get taller .... Yes, and taller and taller
and taller until one day their heads hit the moon."

You still look just the same to him in this strange bed.
He gives you a present that he'd hidden from me,
wrapped in silver foil with messy sellotape. He opens it
for you: his favorite car, the one we got him last Christmas
so you could brrmbrrm it along the sheets and get better.

The nurses spoil him while some asian doctor
takes me to a spare office. For him
I repeat my questions although I know the answers,
like the latest playground riddles. "Unmentionable", he says,
when I thank him. I think he means "Don't mention it."

I decode your sudden sweat, your shrivelled vowels,
as death buys you off, fills in your O's, sweeps your petals
into heaps, until my cleverness runs out
and you hold your breath as if straining to listen,
a sentry on the red edge of eternity.

He sleeps on the back seat as I chase the night into
the cul-de-sac of dawn, cities closing the distances between them,
one or other claiming every village like young lovers, greedy.
I carry him still sleeping to his bed, his doll eyes
briefly opening. He's only 4, only everything.

"Taking Mark this time" won the 1992 West Sussex Poetry Competition.