The hospital presents itself as gallery.
Stairs diagonalise its healing curves.
Light shatters through skeletal glass,
bursts its bones on polished floors,
is held congealing in the promised air.
It’s art is on the move amongst
meetings with consultants, therapies,
investigations, surgeries. All these are now
its instruments, its measured calls to action –
to correct, reverse, repair, alleviate.
But still it’s hard to guess the healing wings
that gather behind blank walls, the
lives that save and ebb away.
From wards and treatment rooms come trucks
of linen, with their mute attendants.
A patient pinioned to a bed, his life
attached through clips and tubes,
is pushed towards a scheduled procedure.
His empty eyes sweep passing strangers
to the walls. Nurses in blue, beige
and white flock and fluster at their stations
while patience waits the summons of its name
from lists. Escaping traumas and conditions,
more hide beneath their pale anxieties,
in eateries with simple snacks and tea.
Prosthetic city – where life hangs on
beneath a mask; where bags and cases
conceal results of tests, or just
a surgeon’s lunch; where people soon enough
are taken to their fates and choices.
Outside, its buildings fuse modern
to a pinnacled Victoriana; and in the street
beyond the railings, staff gather
at their smoking points, to show some confidence
in health to those who wait inside.
A fine poem, John. I like the mood and sensations of the infirmary, and the perceptions of the parent staring round at the walls, bustle of activity and nurses at their stations. Well done! Nice touch at the end to bring in the Victoriana. Best wishes, John. John
Thanks very much for those kind words. Are you listening to Ian Mac on The Verb?
“patient” not “parent”. Typo.
Like all your work this rewards re-reading many times. Each word carries substantial weight. As always you capture the real and the surreal, the significant and the trivial – and, as so often, you are working on material few others have touched. I can think only of Larkin’s ‘The Building’ and W.E. Henley’s sonnet sequence ‘In Hospital’. Thank you for providing such powerful images of a place (wherever it is) we will all experience.
Thank you for those kind words. I was remembering Larkin’s Ambulances too.