He’s forty-two and he wants to get fit again,
the man on the next machine.
He talks all the time
as we row towards different shores.
Later he asks me to stand with him
as he lifts weights
which are too heavy for him.
My hands follow his in an anxious reflection
of each upward stretch,
which exposes his navel
and makes his arms tremble.
Between ‘sets’ he carries on talking
and I notice the wedding ring,
and the gone to fat body,
a missing front tooth.
And shiny, blue eyes
fixed on, but not seeing, me.
And he tells me
in a flattened singsong,
how his dad was murdered in October.
And how he’s just come back
from emptying and packing up the flat in London,
the man who wants to get fit again.
And it’s as if the telling has shrunk him,
remade the orphan as a child,
and I see how small he is.
And with an extra clarity,
how very big his eyes are, how blue,
© James Nash
Coma Songs, Grassroots Press, September 2003, 2006