Putting People to Bed

Puddling around in the pad between Mr Johnson’s legs
I see as if for the first time in twenty years
what it is I do, cleaning the coated scrotum,
watching the bristles on his legs,
the random pattern of the bruises on his skin, my eyes catch sights
and my ears sweep sounds and my nose sponges up smells;
his frailty, his humility, his sorrow.

They lean towards me so I can peel away their clothes,
fibres oozing with the sweat of their afternoons;
I wipe their faces, wash teeth; they forget
between the two ticks of a clock but I remind them
that this is their bed, tell them that they live here now,
that I am a person in this house,
that they will never go to their own home now.

I feel their warmth through pyjamas, nighties,
touch the wet of mouths as I feed in pills;
I see men who wander corridors, line at doors
waiting for a bus or train to go home,
to go out to their job or the pub,
I hear them wondering about their children,
I hear women asking Who can stop that baby crying?

I taught at school for a year then midnight flitted, next
a factory, then a lab assistant’s job, then this,
meeting these people, feeding and showering them,
putting them to bed, people with pockets filled
with the marble chips of dreams, the bluestone chunks of age,
dry sticks jammed into earth while my life spreads,
a paddock blowing green.