Most often I spot them way off in the distance:
something in the gait and the weight of their symptoms
is bearing the stamp of repeat prescriptions.
Alarm bells screech, I turn on a sixpence
to cross roads inventing a previous engagement,
catch a flower arrangement, bend to tie laces,
bury my head in shop windows replete
with cheap trinkets. I tread light on my feet
for dejected spirits make cock-crow visits
and patches of ice combine with the rain
to throw me off-balance; I clutch at displacement
before facing ex-patients again.
Or maybe my elbow shudders at fingers
as a “Hello, stranger!” wraps round my shoulder.
I spin to a name that I can’t remember;
a drug, diagnosis or simply disorder.
The furrowed flesh of distress and despond;
their failure to bond and exasperation
with trial separations from errant husbands,
the scars and bruises borne by the infants;
a rooted abhorrence roared at the parents.
I am emptied of empathic slaps on the back —
all my unconditional regard is packed
into yellow plastic bags for waste disposal
alongside the attire of the non-judgemental.
What’s once contemplated can’t be unthought;
they take me at face value; I sell them short.
Raymond Miller (UK)