Room Service

Nick Rice

We have no stretcher cases here, nor sirens, shrieking

emergency and blood. Infirmity arrives sedately,

wearing no bandages, for the bleeding stopped long

ago. Now there is only scar-tissue, the site

of ancient battle-grounds whose origins

non-one remembers.


There are no visible fractures and we have not the technology

to mend the cracks that widen between reality and dream

Sometimes we are your children, given boiled sweets,

asked questions which we have no time to answer.

Sometimes your mothers; you are pettish, querulous,

needing love


and we offer you bedsocks and barley water, air cushions,

laxatives and Benger's Food. We rub backs and tauten

draw-sheets, empty commodes and fill hot water bottles,

check temperature and pulse. Linen snaps and crackles

on the line, junket cools on larder shelves; our world



to the rhythm of your hot-house rooms, the chronology

of senescence- twilit world, crepuscular, as though

the time were always evening, the season perpetual November.

See how our shadows slide before us, down long corridors

where carpet digests our footsteps. Listen

at half-open doors


to the conversation of curtain-rings, the gas-fire

whispering. Here is your supper tray. Let us rally

recalcitrant pillows, light lamps, turn the flame higher,

keeping back the dark. That is what we are good at, though

we know, as you in your brief moments of clarity know also,

that we are


all guilty,  we are all partners in a grand conspiracy

of silence, for the small hours are hurrying towards us when currents run sluggish and the pulse ebbs. That is polar

night out there that pushes at the windows. It is quite

star-proof. It will exhaust our feeble candle-power. But not

tonight- not yet.