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Act of Contrition
by Chris Ingham
A Dramatic Monologue
Walls, white, austere, utilitarian,
Relieved only by my guilt red rose,
Brought as a final act of contrition
For my lasting guilt. No! For our shared guilt,
For we were both to blame, both blameless.
All is silent, save for the dull humming
Of the heater, the pinging monitor,
Like distant, dreaded sounds beneath the night.
For the first time in fifteen years I take
Your hand in mine, cold despite the heat.
The nurse said talk to you, that you may hear,
May respond. Please, please hear and grip my hand,
As we need to resolve our bitter past.
"After the first death there is no other"
Dylan Thomas wrote, but he was wrong,
For you and I have suffered many deaths
Along the way: death of youth, love and spirit.
Together we have murdered our hope and youth
And replaced them with a canker.
Now I sit, watch as you face your demise,
Alone here in this room with only me.
Nobody else is left who cares to care.
I, I long for a sign of forgiveness.
Your hand, cold, still and white, as delicate
As it was when first I took it in mine
On that fragrant, elm rustling summer's night
So long ago. I still see, in my mind's
Eye, that yellow dress you wore, your eyes bright
And the world seemed full of possibility.
Your cold hand sits in mine. You remember?
Do I see your smile play upon those lips
That have been so still? No! I imagine
What I need from you, signs of forgiveness.
Let me walk to the window, my dearest
I need to watch the evening thicken
Into darkness. I need some solitude
Whilst I contemplate the reality of my
Long held illusion. Yes, dearest, it was me
Who caused your sudden disillusionment
Stumbling, no to be honest, tramping
On your catholic perfect virginity.
Never ever to forgive, you withdrew
Into a dark frightened world of your own.
Began the slide, and we died the first death.
And now . . .and now, it is too late for me
To say sorry for you cannot hear me
And I cannot but feel that you have won
The victory you fought so long to win.
I hear the tramp of feet upon the floor
As they come to tear the last life from you
And I must face the penultimate death.
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