She comes on a Monday (usually sneaks in)
takes things from a carrier,
carefully arranges them.
It's always the same (I've seen her),
the way she places stuff –
disposable razor, gel.
The old boy lies still (what else can he do?)
and lifts up his chin
as she spreads out the towel.
He's in the same gown (and yesterday's gravy)
but the towel is clean,
she can make sure of that.
The red bowl's gone missing (somebody's had it)
she finds it, half fills it
gets the water just right.
She squirt's the gel (it's cold on her palm)
and rubs it in round the old man's chin,
avoiding his mouth.
"Like this, remember?" she goes (like lipstick)
and he does as he's told;
a child being good.
He studies her face (two inches from his),
that little tip of tongue,
the way he concentrates.
There's trust in his eyes (not much choice really)
as razor drags stubble
tough as old boots.
Her fingers touch his cheek (ever so gently)
she can't look in his eyes –
the sharp blade would slip.
She wrings the flannel (not used since last week)
to wipe away foam
and pats his chin dry.
Folding the towel, she smiles (best she can)
and he smiles back, a good boy,
more stubble to come.
© Glynis Charlton 2008
Published in the Grist Anthology of New Writing and Circa Works Anthology 2017