How are you feeling: Hospital poems (4)

hospitalatnight

If you’ve never quite understood Waiting for Godot it’s possible that a stay in hospital will provide a key. Overheard conversations, especially the ones between doctors that they don’t expect you to listen to, are quietly unnerving. Particularly on a ward at night. Which is one reason I like today’s poem so much. Another reason is that it’s a homage to Louis McNiece. Always good, but rarer than it should be.

Eclogue on ward 46   :      Ian Harker

 

Leeds General Infirmary.

Two junior doctors.

 

HARRY

Ladyboys are back

 

JAY

That’s how you tell the time

of year here

 

HARRY

Tennis then the Ladyboys

then German Market.

It’s like Millennium Square is a heart

and you could reach in

and hold Leeds’s heart in your hands

a pump in a tin box

 

JAY

Scruffy frightened bird

sand coming out the ends

of an hourglass

 

HARRY

Think that’s what it’s like?

I saw one last year

 

JAY

Funny we should be on about hearts

 

HARRY

I saw one. It was underneath

the ribs, banging away

 

JAY

Like a washing machine

you think it’s going to kick free

 

HARRY

Angry little bald bloke

red like it’s holding its breath

 

JAY

or a face at the bars

 

HARRY

I said it looks heavy

like a snooker ball

it looks like it should be smooth –

on baize with its own balance

 

JAY

I held a brain from a jar

You can smell it I said

formaldehyde the technician said

no I said

it’s someone’s life

this guy’s life getting heavier

in my hands. I could smell

all the rooms his life added up to

like morphine

a clean white smell

 

HARRY

Morphine’s death –

you can’t feel death,

it’s cold at the edges.

Anything that’ll kill you

in cold in the end.

I think dying must be like

being sunblind,

like walking into a room

and you can’t see

 

JAY

This woman on Ward 4

said her mother had been to visit her

I looked at her notes and she was 84

she died in the night

half past three it’s always

half past three

 

 

HARRY

Wonder where she was from.

From Jubilee

you can see the sunset over Beeston,

redbrick sunset.

I can almost feel people’s lives

sieving through my fingers

 

JAY

More people are born here

than die

 

HARRY

That’s what I mean

 

JAY

How d’you mean?

 

JAY

Something about weight –

brain weight

heart weight

some fucking meme on Facebook

about the soul having a weight,

the body weighs slightly less dead

than it does alive

 

HARRY

I need to get out of these scrubs

 

JAY

School uniform

Remember how it smelt

after a whole day?

Half past four

before your parents got back

 

HARRY

Everything used to be summer

hot like the back of a car

even Christmas used to feel hot

like a pint glass that’s just been washed,

as warm and new as that

 

JAY

Remember old TVs?

That was weight too

eyebulge in the corner

and it took two of you

 

HARRY

You could see yourself in it

when you switched it off

full length in this afterglow

 

JAY

After school

 

HARRY

Not really

half term in the holidays

midnight and not having to get up

till midday sneaking downstairs

 

 

JAY

I used to think the Earth would glow static

if you switched out the stars

like maybe you could hold it

 

HARRY

weight

 

JAY

Hold it in your hand

and there’d be the sea rolling around

in your palm, if you lifted it

to your ear

 

HARRY

I’ve got to get back

 

JAY

Remember more people

are born here than die

 

HARRY

Massive Fuck You –

Congratulations, Mum –

it’s a Fuck You

 

JAY

You know – I know you’re late –

but you know we’ve colonised 80%

of the planet’s land mass

and killed 80% of the mammals

 

HARRY

’cept chickens.

This weird bird that can’t fly

it’s almost extinct and we spread it

across the world, it’s everywhere,

most successful animal there is

more of them than there are of us

 

JAY

You’ll be late

 

HARRY

See you around

 

JAY

See you

 

 

HARRY

Under all the weight

or not under it – around it

 

JAY

You’re knackered mate

 

HARRY

Tell Death Fuck You from me

if you see him

 

JAY

See you

 

HARRY

see you around

 

Ian Harker

2005 Communication and Cultural Studies and Media alumnus of Leeds Trinity University, Ian Harker secured a two-book deal with respected poetry publisher, Templar Poetry in 2015.  Ian was chosen as one of three winners of Templar Poetry’s Pamphlet Competition and his debut collection was The End of the Sky. (Templar Poetry Dec 2015) ..His work has been published in a number of magazines and he has been shortlisted for two major competitions – the Bridport Prize and the Troubadour prize.
Since graduating, Ian has worked at Blackwells Bookshop, in Leeds.

With Andrew Lambert, in 2017 Ian has created Strix – a new magazine of poetry and short fiction.  Issue One  appeared this summer, and submissions for Issue2 were invited up to September 30th. If you didn’t know, you’ve missed it. Look out for the submission window for Issue3

His second collection Rules of Survival launches this September. Today in fact. You could be in time to be there. Chemic Tavern. Leeds This afternoon

 

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