‘Yellow Man’ by Dan Stathers

Yellow Man

The last time I saw you out of bed
you were searching for fossils,
two hundred million years of them –
older than the stone they were found in.

We were half the sum of each other,
the weight of your footprints lessening
as bones began to surface
and the distance grew in your voice;
still hurtling across galaxies to find you
and air still rushing to soak your lungs.
Outside your window
the wisteria sulked in your absence,
wild flowers frowned and bees refused to dance.

When the last of the colour abandoned your cheeks
you remained cordial; writing your dreams,
sipping on oranges and listening to the world
through a bedside radio. People would stop me
to ask how you were, expecting the worst,
knowing your age better than I did and saying
it was no age at all.

We skinned your medicine,
placed faith in roots not doctors,
pouring morphine down plug holes
and running you shallow baths.
Dogs were allowed on your ward;
dogs, shamanic healers, herbalists
but definitely no travelling relatives,
they would be as welcome as the jaundice.
I’d visit you with bowls of brown rice,
finding you drifting on the cut grass breeze.

The morning you didn’t wake up
the whole house shook and we all began digging.

They carried you away in a cardboard box
through the blackberry lanes to a quieter place
where people remembered you well,
and we left you there, behind stone,
for the next two hundred million years.

(first published in The New Writer 2014)
Dan Stathers is from Kingsbridge, South Devon, and currently a poetry MSc student at The University of Edinburgh (distance learning).