A hospital is never a good place to die –
At least not the right place.
You were in one once, recovering from a fever.
A man, late in his years, lying in the bed next to yours
called to you after the morning nurse did her rounds.
This is me when I was twelve in my first braces.
He held up a wrinkled novel as if it were an old photo,
his fingers like wet bark.
Here’s me bricking it in Anzio during the War.
This time he showed you two books
missing their spines.
From his nest of books he went on:
At the cafe where I met my Shelly.
The barbecue when little Joe bit into a worm
on a sunny bank holiday.
On and on, mapping the constellation of his life.
Bright things in black sky
On the day you were to be discharged,
he gifts you one of his books,
maybe it is of him in his twenties.
You find a scribble on the inside, it reads
Where do books go to die?
Caleb FemiPoem commissioned for RSL Review, Spring 2017