TOUCHED

TOUCHED

We’re in a hospital lift going up
from ground floor to the seventh,
just the two of us, strangers and
I’m thinking (as you do) what if

the cable breaks and we drop like
a stone in a well? How would you
reckon the moment at which
to jump before the point of impact?

Then, with a jolt, the lift just stops.
We look at each other, look away.
Too soon yet for that dreadful intimacy
that prefigures panic. Now it’s grunts

and chuckles, pantomime impatience
and some random button punching. Then
comes language, blunt and businesslike.
“Right. Now what? Should be an alarm

somewhere or a ‘phone. Let’s see”. But
all from me. My partner in misfortune
hasn’t moved. Within the ticking silence,
he is motionless, head cocked like

someone listening for a distant birdcall
or for bells on a breeze. And even as I
watch for a flicker, both unfocussed
eyes tip back to white and, still without

a word, he drops straight down, within
the circle of his standing, like disembodied
clothes.  My first impulse is just to
leave him like some 3-D puddle that I

have to step around as I organise escape
or rescue. Two disasters in succession
out of a blameless morning seem unfair.
But then, as unexpected as the other,

both eyes open, wide and blue and his lips
kiss air like a baby blowing bubbles.
He’s going to die; we know it, both of us
in a simultaneous heartbeat. And I kneel,

like a bad actor genuflecting, and I lean,
fingers spread against the tin-can wall
and watch the urgent lips trying to mould
words out of the unaccommodating air.

I stoop to listen – more, maybe, to read
the fragile shapes in flight. “Touch me”,
he breathes. “Touch me”. But I hesitate:
unlinked, I’m free, like standing water;

once connected, there’s a current drawing
me towards another place. But then I cup
his cheek as I might a child’s and, on a long
unwinding breath, he speaks quite clearly –

“Mummy” – and he doesn’t breathe again.
Sometime later, with a jolt, the lift glides
upwards, graceful, silent, as if no time
had passed for anyone, as if I might step

through those doors, untouched, untouchable,
as if the light should shine as brightly evermore,
doors open, close again,  as if the axis of
the world still held as trustworthy and true.

Dick Jones

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About Dick Jones

I'm a post-retirement Drama teacher, currently working part-time. I have a grown-up son and daughter, three grandchildren and three young children from my second marriage. I write - principally poetry but prose too, both fitfully published. My poetry collection Ancient Lights is published by Phoenicia Publishing (www.phoeniciapublishing.com) and my translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France' (illustrated by my friend, the artist, writer and long-time blogger Natalie d'Arbeloff) is published by Old Stile Press (www.oldstilepress.com). I play bass guitar & bouzouki in the song-based acoustic/electric trio Moorby Jones, playing entirely original material (https://www.facebook.com/moorbyjones?ref=aymt_homepage_panel + http://www.moorbyjones.net/). I play the same instruments in the Celtic/English/Americana/acoustic ambient trio Escher's Dream. I have a dormant blog with posts going back to 2004 at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages - http://patteran.typepad.com - and I'm a radio ham. My callsign is G0EUV

4 thoughts on “TOUCHED

  1. Hi Dick, a great story – the detail is so convincing it feels like a real story. Some beautifully observed details: pantomime impatience, head cocked like / / someone listening for a distant birdcall, 3-D puddle, tin-can wall, fragile shapes in flight. I like where you take it.

  2. Many thanks, Rionach. I got the idea for the story from a newspaper article. So not personal experience. I add this emphatically because two people have taken the protagonist to task for not immediately applying resuscitation techniques!

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