The Last Room

 

My father died in a place of medicine

In some misery but without fear, rather

A rushed responding to those

Who have seen death so often

That the coughs they make

Behind closed palms sound clinical

And antiseptic. He left the usual

Treasure chest of war medals and grieving

Women, perplexed children grown tired

By the burden of carrying their moms

And dads into death and back.

He left encounters with the French Foreign Legion

And drunken punch-ups with Helsinki

Police officers, for his were the golden days

Of drunken punch-ups, and big bands

That boomed the beauty of wildness

Of being young, of being him, of taking

Machine gun fire at Normandy and

Getting drunk with Newfoundland sailors

Who could not swim. My father died

In a bed in which other men and women

Had died and will die after him, the lights

Were down, the water in the harbour was not

As polluted as it had once been, and the ships —

There were no ships, only stalled hunks of iron

Fixed to the stanchions of tired steel works

Where the men no longer worked.