memory – the woods and the singing wind – the child awakes

to screams and banging from the room beyond the paper walls,

His mother’s terror shakes the sleep out of him; Michael runs,

Runs to his mother’s room, Runs into the arms and fist of Purley Sherlock,

risen and in rage beside the bed his mother clings to;

Purley grabs the boy, kicks wide the door and flings the child

Into the stairway, body arched and slamming into walls,

His mother stumbles after, scrabbling for her baby’s hand,

his shirt, for anything that might arrest his fall.

And Sherlock follows, boots and fists and spittle, down the stairs

And howling at the nasty bitch who had the front to call him out for drinking:

little Michael falls and hurts and gasps and calls for angels

Like his mummy told him to, because she said that every one has angels, even her, although there was no angel helping now while Sherlock lashed at her.

She drags the child outside, away from Purley who can scarcely stand, but still he comes, ablaze with Scotch and hatred, battering away each time

he comes in reach of wife and child…

Out into the wind and bitter weather, Mother screaming at the child to come and at the man to go,

Into the lane of trees beneath a sky of ragged cloud and stars: his Mother gets an arm beneath him, hoists him up as if she’s offering him to heaven, then crashes down as Purley tackles her and wrestles her away from Michael.

Michael screams, pure terror, “Azrael!” He calls the name into the storm:

“You shut your mouth you little bastard!” But the cry floats upwards, bubbles up toward the stars and reaches….something.

“You little get!” Purley has his fat hand round his mother’s throat, “Shut your mouth or I shall hurt her more…”

Michael lies whimpering. His mother watches, shaking, head pressed floorwards

When he was very small she’d tell him about angels…

The wind and whisper of their feathers round him and the soft breath of his mother calling them by name,

“Azrael, Michael, Gabriel

Comfort all who trust that Angels come when chaos calls!”

Michael looks up and sees a spark against the night

You may now breathe…

White light in a cold tube. The sides of the tube are close, glowing softly. Too close to focus. There is an apparatus on my chest – it lies like a sleeping dog. The machine whines. The trolley I’m stretched on inches into place. An American voice in my headphones gives orders. “The next scan is 30 seconds “. Most of the scans are short. Breathe in. “ The machine voice pauses. Not long enough. “Breathe out.” “Hold your breath.” I lie still, holding my breath. “You may now breathe.”

“Takes just over an hour,” I was told. Five scans in and I stop counting. Time shrinks to an infinite moment of breathing and holding. My feet are cold. I can feel the wound of the line into my arm. If I open my eyes there is only the white glow. Breathing and holding. I’m wearing a mask. Outside in the quiet hospital, others walk masked like me. Their time is shrunken too. Breathe in. Breathe out. A human voice in the phones. “Right. The stress test. Coming through. “ and I feel my chest tighten as the chemicals wash in, swirl around. I brace for pain; it comes very gently. The discomfort ebbs away. Another chemical. Dye. More scans. More scans. The trolley moves. Daylight. Outside, gown flapping and panicked, I turn a corner and find my waiting daughter. She is exhausted and asleep. You may now breathe…

You may now breathe…



He made cases for imaginary musical instruments.Sometimes he would carry an empty case with him on his lonely walks around the town and people would ask him what the instrument was and he would say he had lost the key to the case but he would sing the way the imprisoned instrument would sound and all was delight.