Comparing my own stout stump with the slender ferrule,
The harsh metal wand, or the pair of hospital crutches.
Not lameness or amputation, thank God, simply old age
And a condition known as “degenerative spine” –
Something between a moral menace and a washed-out weakling.
In the vicinity of the crank-house the maimed swing by
As I make my own slow way between sets of traffic lights,
Grinning a greeting grimly in complicitous courtesy.
My first was something much lighter, with a silver band,
But I had to leave that behind as my back shrank.
Sometimes I journey uphill muttering to myself
That bit of Christina Rossetti in a stertorous way.
There are worse ways of being a connoisseur
Than quoting Christina Rossetti, and comparing walking sticks.
• From Going Out by Anthony Thwaite (Enitharmon £9.99)