The hospital smell combs my nostrils as they go bobbing along green and yellow corridors. What seems a corpse is trundled into a lift and vanishes heavenward. I will not feel, I will not feel, until I have to. Nurses walk lightly, swiftly, here and up and down and there, their slender waists miraculously carrying their burden of so much pain, so many deaths, their eyes still clear after so many farewells. Ward 7. She lies in a white cave of forgetfulness. A withered hand trembles on its stalk. Eyes move behind eyelids too heavy to raise. Into an arm wasted of colour a glass fang is fixed, not guzzling but giving. And between her and me distance shrinks till there is none left but the distance of pain that neither she nor I can cross. She smiles a little at this black figure in her white cave who clumsily rises in the round swimming waves of a bell and dizzily goes off, growing fainter, not smaller, leaving behind only books that will not be read and fruitless fruits.
A poet who divided his life and the attention of his poetry between Assynt in the West Highlands, and the city of Edinburgh, Norman MacCaig combined ‘precise observation with creative wit’, and wrote with a passion for clarity.Read more about this poet