Alone in my hospital room at night I watch tiny particles of dust and fluff swirl beneath the reading lamp. They say dust comprises of dead skin cells, we sweep them away when we clean, removing all trace of our former selves. Our cells are constantly reproducing and every seven years our bodies regenerate anew. Your body is repeatedly recycling itself but not your mind. Your mind is an entirely different story. Our brains become less active, neural pathways die, our memories fade and disappear, we lose skills and alertness, sometimes we even lose our sense of self.
But back in my mean small room, Ward 3A. I’ve been here fourteen weeks now. A reluctant patient, more like prisoner. So every night I sit, sleepless and thoughtless watching the dust and wondering if these are particles of the old me, a shedding of my past life. Occasionally moths enter through the open window and dance wildly in the pool of light, their fragile wings clinking against the electric bulb. Blinded and bewildered they circle. In the morning I find their wispy bodies spent and shrivelled on my sheets.
One morning, when you are least expecting you
wake up a hole
in your abdomen, a salivating
red circle, slap bang middle of the soft
flesh beneath your ribs,
big enough to fit two fingers.
You feel no pain, just uncomfortably numb.
There’s a hole and you can’t recall
what was there before. You try not to look,
put a sock in it and Elastoplast over the top.
After fruitless Googling you
ring in sick and visit the doctor.
She’s wearing lipstick and a feather boa.
She advises vitamin D and camomile tea. Just one of those things, she smiles and hands you
a free whale music CD on your way out.
Next day, you wake feeling cold.
The ceiling is scabbed with mould.
There’s a strange smell in the room, like geraniums.
When you study the hole, it’s become a tunnel
and you cannot see the end.
You shine a torch and for a moment
glimpse the white shriek of an eyeball.
On the last day
you wake before dawn.
The cornflakes taste stale and you’re out of bread.
You worry about office dead
-lines and the state
of the carpet where the cat is digging for gold.
You take a hot bath and try not to look.
Through the opening you
hear the trill of bird song.
Anyone here had a go at themselves
for a laugh? Anyone opened their wrists
with a blade in the bath? Those in the dark
at the back, listen hard. Those at the front
in the know, those of us who have, hands up,
let’s show that inch of lacerated skin
between the forearm and the fist. Let’s tell it
like it is: strong drink, a crimson tidemark
round the tub, a yard of lint, white towels
washed a dozen times, still pink. Tough luck.
A passion then for watches, bangles, cuffs.
A likely story: you were lashed by brambles
picking berries from the woods. Come clean, come good,
repeat with me the punch line ‘Just like blood’
when those at the back rush forward to say
how a little love goes a long long long way.
A hard hitting poem by English poet, Simon Armitage
“I seem to myself, as in a dream,
An accidental guest in this dreadful body.”
By Anna Akhmatova
I took this photo yesterday at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where I’ve been incarcerated for several days after breaking my thigh bone and having surgery. The femur is the body’s largest bone. During the op they inserted a titanium plate and screws. There’s no point going on at length about the pain I’m in and the shocking inadequacy of the British Health Service which treats disabled patients as third class. But I will have plenty more to say when I return to normal life and internet.
This stained glass mural is situated in the main entrance corridor of the hospital. One of the few good things here!