(for Jim Ducker)
The growth plundered your voice,
robbing it of tone; you spoke
in well-articulated whispers, inhaling
through that tube thing in your throat.
You shone, in spite of it all.
No self-pity, even near the end,
after years of speaking to us
in breaths the way you did –
yet you had a voice, old friend.
Always the bright guy at the bar,
you brought a twinkle
even to a whisper; a susurrus of wit
would penetrate the tedious tones
of those for whom EastEnders
and the latest from The X Factor
provided fodder for barroom babble.
Struggling to be heard but stubbornly
winning with smiles and quips,
you were never less than sparky
with your crackling one-liners
and the percussion of your Good Advice.
Quite suddenly you died;
thirteen months ago you died.
You would not wish me to reach
for a soppy synonym.
You did not pass away:
you died, you died, you died.
I handled your affairs –
so long ago, it seems;
but time and distance are
such fragile things, and grief
is no respecter of them:
whisper its name
and it will return to you.