Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Poem: The Hospital

sliced fingertip, blood on the Sleeping Beauty dress: they take me for her mother
polite brother, polite sister beside the dying father: they take me for their mother

wild boy at the bedside, humming, painted hair: they take me for his mother
child with child, flat as, thin as, white as a sheet: they take me for her mother

tired boy with whooping cough : they take me for his mother
wired man with harried heart: they take me for his mother

thumb, crushed, a foul mouth: they take me for his mother
numb, glutted  with  pills: they take me for her mother

breath ricochets like spent laughter
death ricochets  a spent balloon

they  take  me  for  its  mother
they know me for its daughter


                                                                   Mary McCallum




For more Tuesday Poems click on the quill in the sidebar. Anna Livesey's the moonmen is at the hub this week, and you'd be crazy not to follow the live blog roll to more treats. 

8 comments:

Vespersparrow said...

Lovely, Mary, and so carefully, wrenchingly written that we are almost unaware that we've lost our breath, that the garotte of the shorter and shorter couplets mimics what is happening to the woman in the poem, so that by the last couplet, we feel the final twist on our own necks. Well done.

Mary McCallum said...

Thank you VS, very much - the garotte, yes, I didn't think of it as way to describe the rising tide of panic - less air, less breath, death ... terrific. Therefore, I really should think about making the penultimate two lines more 'breathy' then like 'breath ricochets: spent laughter/death richochets:spent balloon' or both with dashes perhaps - kind of wild and repetitive like the Tuesday Poem by Ursula Bethell last week ?'breath ricochets:spent laughter --/death ricochets:spent balloon -- Or too much? I'll have a think.... Thanks again VS.

Mary McCallum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathleen Jones said...

This is a really intriguing poem Mary. I liked the way you hold it together with the repetitions, like a chant. but I don't completely get the meaning and I can't locate the 'I' of the poem with any clarity. so maybe you need to put more in?

Pam Morrison said...

I love this repeating chant Mary, amidst sparsely drawn increasing horror. That first person voice alongside ever-present, seen / not seen...

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks Kathy and Pam. I am pleased you felt the power of the chant. I wanted that very much.

I don't really know where this poem came from it is enigmatic I guess and you're right Kathy the 'I' is not so obvious, but this is deliberate. Here the 'I' becomes 'Mother' is lost in the world of the sick and dying, until the end - is, s you say, Pam, 'seen/not seen'.

It's an angry poem I guess - about how as a mother we become 'Mother' - an archetype - the Carer and Nurturer - for the whole world it seems at times... our individual selves 'not seen'. I have gone to the emergency room at the hospital so often with my children and other young people that are attached to our family and to visit people there I love and to take children to see dying parents... I am not always 'the mother' but sometimes I have been mistaken for the mother, sometimes I have had to be the mother... and it didn't matter really if I was or not. I was there as 'Mother' and did what mothers do.... know what to do, are strong, make decisions even when they're close to unbearable ...

And yet in every mother is the individual, the fallible, vulnerable self, the one who will also fall sick one day, might need to be taken to the hospital herself, is a daughter too - and 'death' is not mistaken about this, it knows ....

Mary McCallum said...

In fact when I say 'death knows' - the way I wrote the poem, it is the 'they' at the hospital (and elsewhere) who know this thing.

Rachel Fenton said...

It rings with the quiet insistence of the unheard observer. he labelled yet nameless. I like it for its visual presence as much as for the words.