I'm thinking about that last time I saw you,
a posy of flowers in a twist of silver foil
on your chest, sheet up to your chin. It was you
I was looking at, and not you. The need to sidle
past the nurse from Bengal was a feeble excuse
for not kissing you, likewise your waxen look.
They say that having laid out the body, straightened
the fingers, a nurse will kiss the brow of a corpse
if there's no next of kin, or none to speak of,
for no-one should depart this life unkissed.
And I wonder, did she – when the door closed,
in the hush, the stillness – bend forward, press
her perfect lips to your now untroubled forehead.
Did she leave there a hint of red, a final blessing?
Stephen Boyce lives in north Dorset. He is the author of three poetry collections, Desire Lines (Arrowhead 2010), The Sisyphus Dog (Worple 2014) and The Blue Tree (Indigo Dreams 2019), and of three poetry pamphlets. Stephen is co-founder of Winchester Poetry Festival. You can find him here: www.stephenboycepoetry.com.