Even the fierce staff nurse is reverent, brings a screen
before she lavishes with suds the clear skin of his back
rubs it with alcohol, massages with zinc cream.
We student nurses, awed at having leave to touch,
grip hands beneath his slack, smooth body, heave.
We pull his bed-sheet taut so it won’t chafe
then comb his glossy hair, adjust the thin
tube of his catheter, change his unused carafe.
The summer breeze brings to his still head
the breath of mown lawns, the smell of tar
from heat-hazed roads shimmering ahead
of fences flicking like eyelashes, immeasurably far
from this young man, ten miles and two months on
from the biker who rode wheelies, did the ton.