The west wind blustered down the ill made road
and whistled through the clumps of pallid grass,
where snow patches had clung on into March.
The boy wiped the windswept hair from his eyes,
hoping the fallen model plane had survived.
In the shop it had seemed a perfect choice,
now broken on the road he felt less sure.
Home from school he had been sent out to play,
his father, returned last night from the North,
was still in bed and could not help at all.
He lay in striped pyjamas with a tray,
still working on a bill of quantities.
The old brown Morris, garaged from the snow,
did not know that its days were numbered too.
The draughts of Mars blew under the front door
and up the stairs to where the surveyor lay,
coughing over the yellow baking bowl,
breathing Friar's balsam beneath a towel.
The sugar in his blood was not a sign
of strength through sweetness but the acetone
on his breath bore the smell of early death.
The doctor was expected soon, meanwhile
she had tried all the well-known remedies:
cooked chicken soup to feed him with a spoon
and packed his sponge bag for the hospital.
She planned to send the boy next door in case
her husband's chest got worse and the doctor
confirmed that he had caught pneumonia.
It was funny how he remembered him:
chicken broth running down a stubbled chin,
the clutter of unwashed dishes in the sink,
the chevron pattern on the plywood tray,
the unmade bed as he was whisked away.
He could hardly recall what his mother said,
something about being good and going to bed.
The man next door, a family friend, was kind
but the older children seemed too subdued.
He was given comics to read and food
while the day passed slowly into evening.
Taking him to the parlour, the man said,
"Be brave, you're the man of the house now", but
in his head, the wind said, "your father's dead".