can he do that

He raised his eyes from his notebook and looked up across the lawns towards the main house.

He could see Mary taking the tray from the other nurse – the miserable one who never bothered talking to him – and could just hear her say “I’ll take it down to him – I’m sure he’d rather have it down there on such a lovely day”.

I would – the air is clean here, fresh and filled with soft scents of flowers and grass – not bodies and medicines and damp.

“Could you take a look at Mrs Willis for me?”

A look is all she’ll get – miserable woman doesn’t care about us.

Mary’s different – you can see she cares.

“Hello Simon, here’s your coffee – and I’ve brought you some ginger biscuits – you like those, don’t you?”

She watches me as I take a sip from the cup – holding my hand steady for me – not impatient at all – you can see she cares.

“Have you written anything today – can I read it?”

I couldn’t stop you if I tried, but of course you can – you always do.

“The Shepherd’s Tale …………… shuffling slowly down the gully, cursing softly at the stragglers …. “

…. it sounds different when she reads it  .. they all do…

he stopped to catch his breath, and looked down towards the farm … she’d be there, busy, happy, making supper for the family  …..

he heard Mary’s voice again …

“watching the smoke drift lazily away from the house, he moved on, remembering how it once was between them …

he cursed softly at the stragglers – and at the memories”.

“Simon, that’s beautiful … but it’s so sad .. they are all so sad.”

She held my hands for a few minutes, then got up.

“I’ll come back later for the tray .. if I can I’ll bring your lunch down later.

Will you write a happy poem for me? something cheerful … I’d like that if you could”.


“Simon … wake up Simon, the doctor’s here to see you”

Mary’s voice … but not her face.

“Hello Simon”

“How has he been lately? .. the latest tests show some slight deterioration  .. not of great concern but we will need to monitor him more closely for a while”

“He … he’s writing less, but what he does write is increasingly sad .. I always cry when I read them”.

But I didn’t mean to make you cry … only to know.

“Sorry, Simon .. we shouldn’t talk about you .. I’m sure you can hear us. What worries me Simon,  is that you are starting to look frailer, and older …… it’s as if you’ve given up … I hope you haven’t … you mustn’t  …. there’s a strong chance of you getting better …… isn’t there Doctor?”

“If we knew exactly what it is that’s attacking his body then there would be a chance ... sorry Simon - if we could find out the exact cause of your illness there is, certainly, every chance of finding a cure, or at least to stop it progressing so fast”.

“Stil writing is a good sign, though ..  it was six months after you first came here before you started writing again … is he writing something most days?”

Almost every day … but it’s so tiring, and I can’t say it the way I want to say it.

“Most days, Doctor ..  but always the poems, he never responds to questions and never writes to us …. here’s what he’s written so far this week.”

“The pictures inside his head worried him …. Little red magnets dangling on strings, chasing yellow metal fishes in a cardboard box  …”

Not remembering made me  angry … even when I searched everywhere, through all the years … and then I remembered …  and bit my lips until I could taste the blood …

“He called it “Childhood Memories”  .. every time I think about it it makes me feel like crying”.

“I’ll see you in the clinic tomorrow, Simon .. come on Mary, we have twenty other patients to look after”.

As they walked away, I could hear them talking.

“Doctor .. . it's as if he's willing himself to die ..... can he make himself die? just let himself fade away? ..... can he do that?”

“No Mary .. don’t concern yourself so much about Simon … he’ll last for years yet”.


No  … not years .. when I can’t write about it any more .. that will be when.