I’d strayed: learnt the ways of a cruel cut-throat gang.
Though I’d stayed on the edge—more Oliver Twist than
Ronnie or Reg—I’d turned tricks, made the trade.
But I didn’t belong, always thought I’d go straight.
This time was different, this was my shout,
and your loss weighed like lead as I lifted it out.
A whole day’s dulled fear had pooled in my gut,
and a serpent tongue whispered, falsely, to cut
and run like a thief caught—red-handed—in crime.
But your new voice was calling, the kit standing by,
when the gasman said: “Leave it, you’ve had long enough”
and complicit, aphonic, I stitched you up.
I thought I’d return when the timing was right
and restore to your life what you’d lost in the fight,
but your rival, unvanquished, stole back to you first,
and callous, uncaring, took your breath in its fist.
Yet your quiet composure, as years became days,
the look in your eye that put death in its place,
and your words—mouthed in silence—that continue to ring,
still leave me speechless: “Thank you, for everything”