15 APRIL 1995, Page 35

Easter Visit

I slipped out of the laundered day and left it there, Hanging outside the great glass doors to air, Walked down long corridors that smelt of meals Or ghostfbf meals, past stillnesses on wheels.

I carried gifts of chocolates and fruit, A yellow fanfare bright against dark suit, Flowers of resurrection time. I stepped Dainty through the ward, as one adept In crossing mined terrain, and reached his bed, Presented tributary gifts and said Aiew rehearsed banalities, sat down And grinned and nodded like a puppet clown.

I sniffed the scent of darkness in the white Hygienic lie of air, felt flesh grow tight On facial bone and scalp until taut skin Made a memento mori of my grin.

I touched his hand and said I had to go. I think I saw the faintest smile, although I couldn't swear to that. 'Back soon,' I said, And moved away with fake reluctant tread, Then stepped up pace beyond the ward. Outside, The air was merciless and sweet, denied Its lightless opposite, and I breathed deep. Against the sky the building, with a sweep Of rough-spun shadow, darkened where I stood. I crossed into the sun, walked fast, felt good.

Vernon Scannell