appointment with bill

walks on
two small lurchers hanging on
his every sniff
every tail wag and leg lift
like attentive courtiers
or tip-oriented porters
keeping a valued customer
at close quarters
‘Pepper’s in love’ says Bill
but they’re having a lovely time…’
as we chat and climb
slowly through the wood
slogging through the claggy mud
talking generally about stuff
like isn’t life strange
and how you have to change
continually adapting
to the next thing happening
like this old friend of his
known him for years
wife suddenly dies
and now he has to try
rebuild his entire life
‘It’s hard,’ says Bill
‘but nothing stands still
you have to keep going until
you don’t
anyway – I hope you won’t
mind if we go via the shack?
there’s a bit of kit
I need to get back…’
so we stop at the shack
and he sneaks round the back
for the key
then he
opens the corrugated door
and I get to see
what the old shack’s for:
all the gear the volunteers use to keep
the wood in shape
and the pathways neat
and he rummages inside
as I hold the door wide
till he finds what he wants and steps outside
with an old and beautiful
wooden handled scythe
and he stands there smiling
posing with the thing
‘Who am I?’ he says
‘I bet you can’t guess’
and I don’t WANT to say ‘Death’
because – well
Bill’s not been in the best of health
and that story he told
about his old
friend Chris
was too fresh
in my mind
‘Old Father Time?’
I say
‘Yes – or DEATH’ says Bill
much the same thing
I’ll just lock up
and we can carry on walking’

don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it looks

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