The default assumption about hospital is that no-one wants to have to go in one, and that everyone who goes in is counting the seconds till they can go home again, and breathe air that’s not been pre-used by about 10,000 other not-very-well folk. Which is why I particularly liked today’s poem. As I read it, there’s a condition that can creep up on you like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Swaddled in clean blankets and sheets, blissed out on legal drugs, fed and cared for. I’ve never come near to this imagined state. But after this poem I understand it better
Virus : Lydia Macpherson
A third floor room, the isolation
ward where slanted blinds
leak pearled aquarium light.
Green linoleum, the sedative hum
of nurses’ voices along the corridor,
the honeycomb Braille of cotton blankets.
Permitted boredom in the filtered air,
no flowers, no visitors, just the coming
and going of temperature taking,
the careful handling of the thread
of mercury against my teeth,
my pulse bulging eagerly against
a capable finger, the charts to map
a journey of abandonment.
Pills in tiny plastic cups washed down
with stale-ish cordial from ribbed jugs,
baths taken Cleopatra-style with
milky water and the dangling
promise of a red emergency cord
should things get out of hand.
A voluntary submission to the rule
of tea at 6am, Horlicks at dusk
and trays of school food to mark
the time passed in between.
The Petri dishes bloom in basement labs.
I want them to become a jungle of viruses,
I want to be tended here forever.
Lydia’s first collection, Love Me Do, won the Crashaw Prize for a debut collection in 2013. Love Me Do was published by Salt, Spring 2014. It is available to buy at Salt Publishing and from Amazon.
Lydia’s poems have appeared in many publications including Poetry London, The North, Poetry Wales and Magma. She has been placed and commended in various competitions, including second prize in the Edwin Morgan poetry competition in 2012.
She lives in Winchester .