Your beard was always thick and jetblack.
One morning in the Galway B and B
you showed me how to soften up the incipient growth
on my own face with water first
before shaving it with the blade.
You are broken now, on a bench in a human dump
like a pair of old trousers discarded in the corner.
It’s your darkness that first comes back to mind
in the hospital, visiting you by bike one afternoon.
I am ashamed of my togetherness in your presence.
The patients are playing ping-pong with the fragments of your head;
one pane is missing from the beehive window
and a patient in his underpants sticks his hand through it every couple of minutes.
You say you are missing Beethoven.
They won’t let us out to walk in the garden –
afraid no doubt the flowers might catch schizophrenia
and scream at Wordsworth at the top of their voices –
and I am ashamed again when you say fervently
that you ‘d like me to get you a piano in the asylum
so you could spend your days fingering
the terrible silent notes of solitude.