the clown procedure

Raymond, eighty-six,
stands in the kitchen doorway
back-lit, uncertain, hunched as a bear
prematurely brought to the mouth
of his cave by a dream of hunters
‘Thanks for seeing me’ he wheezes
ironic, given his condition
just back from the eye hospital
where the surgeon sorted his cataract
insouciant as a sous chef
peeling a lychee
‘I’m fine with everything normally,’ he says
‘I’m pretty independent.
It’s just – with this eye –
I needed help with the ointment’

I follow him inside, to a table
silted with post, pills and magazines,
spent scratchcards, pizza menus
and numbers and names, all in green ink,
scrawled on the backs of envelopes
‘Everyone referred to us
goes through the same procedure’ I say
immediately tripping over my bag,
fumbling my folders
and scattering all the forms on the floor
‘Oh dear, oh dear!’ says Raymond
suddenly brighter
‘Are you alright?’
and, popping the cap from his biro
he slides another envelope from the stack
‘And what procedure might that be?’


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