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Older Gentleman

Lilah Ainsworth 2007 (Kent)

Hi, this is my first poem to be released to the public. I have no idea whether it is any good or not, criticism welcome & appreciated!

Older Gentleman.

I cringe at the visceral sound that rips through
Someone else’s chest. Glad, for a vindictive moment
That it is not me. I look over and see
An older gentleman with hand pressed to his mouth.
It comes away scarlet.

I sit alone in a doctor’s office chair
This was routine, I was not scared. Just a checkup. The nurse
Only briefly passing by, tells me, facelessly.
‘The doctor will see you shortly.’ She does not come
Apparently, it was the older gentleman.
He has months to live.

I slip down onto the sofa, ripping the mask from my face
I was never seen, but who cares anyway?
I am not the older gentleman. I’m sure I will be fine
Better not to waste the NHS’s time.
The older gentleman needs it much more than me.

I decided to see the older gentleman today. I did not know him
But I found out his name whilst I was at the GP surgery
And thought that maybe he would like to see me.
The hospice nurses told me that he had no family.
No-one had come to see him and it was his final days on Earth.

I don’t know if he heard me somewhere in there
But I told him about myself; that I was training to be
A teacher, I was going to finish my degree
In a few short weeks, but lives change, and that I hoped
He wasn’t in pain. I saw more scarlet spatter on his lips
As the cough racked his body again.

He spoke then, said. ‘I don’t have much advice to offer,
Young lady.’ he coughed again, and I went to call for a nurse but
He waved me away. He said ‘Don’t end up lonely like me, young lady.’
‘Alone on your deathbed is no way to be. Live long,
And live happy. Do it, for me.’

I returned his weak smile, said. ‘You are not
Alone.’ He shrugged, his chest heaving. ‘S’pose not.
I’m glad you’re here, even if you’re aren't.’

‘I am.’ I said. He began again. ‘I hope you get your degree.
A few short weeks isn’t much, I guess.
At least you’ll be better off than me.’ I nodded slowly. ‘What will you teach?’
I wasn’t sure he had heard me.
‘Oncology.’ I answered. He smiled, tight-lipped.

Beep. Beep.
‘That’s nice.’ He said. A nurse showed up then.
‘It’s time for you to leave. Family only, now, no friends.’ I knew
Somewhere, in the back of my mind, what this meant. I went
To protest, but the older gentleman shook his head.
‘Thank you kindly, for your company, young lady.’ He said, all
Business-like. ‘But I’d like to take my nap now. It’ll be a long night.’

It was quieter this time. I was standing
Outside the older gentleman’s door. They said
I could not stay but technically I had not crossed the threshold.
I did not want the older gentleman to be alone when it happened.
A doctor passed by in the corridor. I knew her vaguely, from before.

‘It’s been a while.’ she said, extending a hand. She glanced
At the paper chart, taped to the door. My eyes could not help but drift to
The red stamp in block letters reading ‘Terminal.’ She sighed.
‘A family member of yours?’ she asked, her eyes wide. I shook
My head. Stuttered something along the lines of ‘He’s only a friend.’

The noise was louder. The doctor shrugged, ‘I was assigned to his case.
Smokers lung. Cancer.’
I rested my hand against the door, about to go for the door handle.
The doctor glanced down and averted her eyes. ‘He has no other family?’
She asked, surprised. ‘No-ones come to see him.’ I answered.
She walked away. ‘This corridor empty, at this time of day.
If you wanted to see him, I won’t say anything.’

Her heels clicked on the lacquer. The nurse had already left
Through a back door. I slipped inside the room and watched
The older gentleman take a last deep shuddering breath
And watched it sigh out of him; watched my first death.
Beeeeep. I left the room, tears in my eyes. I almost never cried.
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Submitted on March 14, 2021

3:50 min read

Lilah Ainsworth

Hi! My name is Lilah Ainsworth and I'm a (now published!) teenage poet. I post here mostly for constructive criticism to better my style and for fun & stuff :-) more…

All Lilah Ainsworth poems | Lilah Ainsworth Books

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