15 Sep

2014 Winner! – Charles Evans


Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
I said, lying back on the hard table,
and felt him slide in the needle.
Count down from ten, he’d said.
Could I recite something instead? I asked.
He paused, irritated, looking down at me.
What do you have in mind? He asked.
What about Macbeth’s speech? I said.
About daggers? He said. No, I said, tomorrow.

So I continued, creep in this pretty pace …
when suddenly a rush, and he was there,
sitting on the bank as swans drifted past,
doublet, small beard, pen in hand.
In hospital, I said, I had to recite something.
I chose Macbeth’s speech about tomorrow,
Dark lines, he said, Why not something lighter?
What made you choose a doomed man?
Well, I said, I think I feel the same way.

He looked round as I lay back on the grass.
It’s scarey, I said, but the more he says
Life’s meaningless, brief candle, told by
An idiot and so on, the easier it gets.
He tossed a pebble in the river, and smiled.
We all have hard times, he said, tell me some
other lines you like. I felt his eyes on mine.
Then things started to go fuzzy and odd, and
I realised I had to be quick before it was too late.

I was right. The surgeon was bending over me
in the Recovery Room, his face close to mine.
How do you feel? He was saying. Are you with us?
Did you get it out? I asked him blearily.
We’ll have a talk tomorrow, he said, and hurried off.
I tried to sit up, but a nurse eased me back.
Just before you came to, she said,
we saw you smile. What did that signify?
Nothing, I said.

Charles Evans
Blackheath, London

Charles Evans