‘Who is on my side?  Who?’  II Kings ix, 32.


So, is the near-born infant unaware
of the great heaving frame excreting it?
those nine long months of care, the lifelong care
to come? – alone amidst the piss and shit –
the mother’s swollen breasts ready to share
substance and sustenance?


Or, later, when the children pick up teams,
and one’s not chosen till the last, does he
not recognise the girl who, though she seems
quite unconcerned, ensures he bats first?  She
will one day be the subject of his dreams –
and teach him how to dance.


Or, when some whistle-blower spills the beans
and lets the nation know of secret wrong,
standing alone, the public interest means
he does not stand alone, or not for long.
One act of courage gradually convenes
a cheering audience.


Or, near the end, when one or other’s gone,
the relict sleeps at night, and wakes, alone.
In place of the familiar antiphon
of marriage, silence floods the house. The phone
rings rarely. Still, she spends her care upon
the living – pets and plants.


In life, we’re never quite alone. We choose
solitude sometimes – but there always are
secret companions: shadows, sunlit views,
birdsong and memories, the morning star,
kindness of friend or stranger – till we lose
all sense and sentience.