I want to touch his paper skin
drink the ink of his eyes.
Instead I write about the horse chestnut
beside the stables coming into flower.
I want to breathe the musk of his uniform
pressed with mud and cordite.
Instead I tell him Aunt Philomena’s
red setter has had six pups.
I want to light every waxy candle bloom
of the stables’ chestnut – each a prayer,
all a beacon – to light his way back to me.
Instead I tell him his mother is knitting for England;
holds coffee mornings to raise money for munitions.
Because his mother has been in bed for a month
with ‘nerves’ and won’t even allow Bobo in.
Because Bobo pines at her door, refuses to eat,
and now does his unmentionables on the Persian rug
in his Papa’s study, so his Papa now sleeps at his club.
Because everyday I scrub the ward floors
with chlorine to drown the smell of gangrene
and I want to smell him, his back, his neck,
his every crease, his every fold and darkness.
Because I want both his legs – taut and lithe
and muscled and pushing against me.
Because I can’t stand his sister
who pretends she’s more upset than me
and yet I write we’re getting on rippingly.