They had said that he was dying but
He might as well be home,
He was taking up an empty bed
At the hospital, in Rome,
And no amount of medicaments would
Bring him back to life,
So they threw him in an ambulance
And sent him to his wife.
And she, poor girl, was mystified
She didn’t need the stress,
Of tending to a cadaver while
She wore her party dress.
He saw the world through greying eyes
But he never made a sound,
He’d married her through thick and thin
But on thin, she’d let him down.
His days were grey and mist-like as
He looked around his room,
She’d kept the curtains pulled across
So he lay there in the gloom,
And shadows of her sister would
Stand pensive at his bed,
He’d loved, and he really missed her
But the sister long was dead.
Perhaps he should have married Grace
As the younger of the two,
But that would have left the elder one
Not knowing what to do.
The eldest must be married first
Or so the father said,
So Raymond Royce was given no choice
He’d married Gwen instead.
It seemed as if he woke sometimes
And he went to greet the day,
Out in the broader sunshine where
His pains had gone away.
But Gwen was never there with him
As she’d never been in life,
While Grace had sat and talked with him
As if she were alive.
And when Grace reached and held his hand
He thought that his heart would burst,
The tears he shed from his lonely bed
Said he had loved her first.
He asked why Grace had died on him
And she gave him his reply,
‘My sister Gwen had put poison in
That gift of an apple pie.’
‘She knew I only had eyes for you,
And she thought that you would leave,
She saw the way that you looked at me
And her heart began to grieve.
It wasn’t as if she wanted you
But she knew that if you left,
The world would see it as scandal
And would leave her quite bereft.’
And so he lay there, day by day
While his wife brought boyfriends home,
They lay there in the adjoining room
In that little flat in Rome.
While he could not decide between
Reality and dream,
The grey days were his night, he thought
And the brighter days his cream.
He knew just where he would rather be
In the day-like days with Grace,
But Gwen would settle beside his bed
And would mutter to his face.
He saw her dimly through the mist
And repeat beneath her breath,
‘How long, how long will you resist
When the end for you is death?’
The day came that the sun was bright,
It was time that he was fed,
While Grace looked on as her sister sat
Beside her husband’s bed.
And Grace had whispered between her tears
‘Don’t you even wonder why…’
While her sister, with a face so grim
Sat and fed him apple pie.
David Lewis Paget