"The hospital smell
combs my nostrils"
This metaphor highlights how distinctive and overpowering the hospital smell is and MacCaig's feelings of discomfort, fear and anxiety; this whole experience overwhelmes him
"green and yellow corridors"
The colours "green and yellow" remind the reader of things such as pus and vomit, further highlighting the poet's feelings of discomfort and unease.
"What seems a corpse"
The word "corpse" blatantly shows that deaath is on the poet's mind and that he is feeling very pessimistic; MacCaig does not know if the person in front of him is actually dead, as is shown by the word "seems", but because of his anxiety and fear for his wife he assumes that this is the case.
"is trundled into a lift and vanishes
The word "vanishes" symbolises the finality of death - that once you are dead your are gone forever. However, this is contradicted by "heavenward" which suggests that there is life after death. By placing these two contrasting words together, MacCaig allows the reader to take part in hiss inner turmoil as he decides whether there is life after death. This also highlights the poet's fear that he may never get to see his wife again.
"I will not feel, I will not
I have to."
MacCaig is in denial - refusing to let his emotions overwhelm him as he travels to visit his dying wife. I believe that by using enjambment to give "I have to." a line of it's own, it highlights the fact that MacCaig will eventually have to confront his feelings.
"their slender waists miraculously
carrying their burden
of so much pain"
MacCaig reveals the nurses youth through the expression "slender waists" and then expresses his feelings of amazement at how people so young can cope so much better than he, a man with years of experience, with their emotions through the word "miraculously".
The use of a short sentence hightens the poet's feelings of anxiety and creates a tense atmosphere. It also creates a strong, shocking impact. By writing seven in numerals it allows the reader to see the sign and feel like they too are standing outside his wife's room.
"A withered hand
trembles on it's stalk"
MacCaig compares his wife to a wilting flower which means he thinks of her as old but fragile and delicate. I also think that the use of the word "withered" shows that the poet sees his wife as a former shadow of herself and that he knows he has lost her to her illness.
"She smiles a little at this
black figure in her white cave"
MacCaig changes from first to third person to highlight how helpless he feels; he knows that there is nothing he can do to help his wife. The "black figure" creates feelings of sympathy for MacCaig as he sees himself as a stranger that his wife no longer recognises.
"leaving behind only
books that will not be read
and fruitless fruits."
On a literal level this quote further highlights the poet's wife's condition as she is so ill she will never be able to make use of these items. However, the oxymoron used - "fruitless fruits" - symbolises MacCaig's feelings of hoplessness.