Gordon, from the house across the road, lives on his own.
His long grey hair skitters in the early morning light,
like clouds released of rain, as he bends to pick the bottle of milk
from the step, looking up quickly as I shout a brief 'good morning'.
His answer can be hardly heard above the autumn breeze,
gulped back in through shyness, shame or lack of confidence.
He's lived here since his mother died while pruning roses
at the back, his naval pension and savings barely meeting needs.
Every day he mixes corned beef mash for feral cats
and badgers from the wild fields out beyond his bottom
garden fence, green with spores of lichen, like a rug.
His days are spent polishing the absences he feels;
the rigour of a service life, parades and, still, the rod
that cauterised his young flesh into weals, offered up
as love for all he knew; ships and those thrilling trips ashore.
Some days you'll see him on his bike returning from the shop,
upright as a saint, freewheeling down the hill
to home, hair flying back like the tail of a bolting horse.
And then he's gone, disappeared inside his house to spend
more time with emptiness, peeling back the shadow
solitude brings, offering to himself these hours as gifts.