When my dad was admitted at the age of 84 for a perforated ulcer, hospital was strange territory, an abode of the halt and the lame...
No one likes a hospital. Mortality
accommodated, pain as price or penalty.
Heartbreak hotels, all jangling traffic,
white antibodies pushing trollies
through flapping rubber doors like valves,
knackered doctors, heads on desks.
So when, this Christmas, it's my dad
I'm visiting, I step into the antiseptic fug
with more than usual trepidation.
Spat out by a peristaltic lift, I shuffle,
fruitless, flowerless, down the bed-line.
Jones, J.C. (k.a. 'Jack'), the scribbled notice says.
But in his place there lies half-
submerged beneath a glacial sheet,
an ice-warrior. Some arctic wind
has drifted snow against his bones
and now ghost-whispers come down time
within his slight breathing. December
in his veins, and in the evening sky
against the windows. I’m at the bedhead,
watching the reptile pulse in throat
and eyelid, the icicle drips of glucose
ticking silently. I am a stranger
in your world of white light, filaments
and dials. I am invisible: its customs
disregard my useless love. Its ministers,
purposeful and sure of their ground,
occupy the space between us, lifting
and settling like nesting birds. You hibernate,
safe within your cage of branches.
Electronic doors discharge me, unprepared
for these old lands made strange. Raw
hope shreds, like the clouds. I drive through limbo.
Blurred, dissolving in my rear-view mirror,
the hospital tips and sinks like a ship of lights.