Home is Where the Heart Stops

Part one

The smell hit her the instant she opened the door. A mix of cats, geraniums and cigarettes. Isabel hated smoking and potted geraniums in equal measure. She didn’t own a cat. She shoved the mountain of accumulated mail out of the way with her crutch. The paramedic placed her bags inside the hall and disappeared down the overgrown path without saying goodbye, still grumbling about how you were only allowed one piece of luggage in an ambulance.

Isabel closed the door behind her and locked it. Her hands shook and her heart threw summersaults of joy to be home, in her own private space, finally away from the prying eyes and probing fingers of the white coats. She’d thought this day would never come. She’d thought it was over, the end of the road, kaputt, finito, nothing left except bedpans, pain and humiliation. No future except days lying in her own stink, face down in a bowl of hospital porridge while the fat lady sang.

Panting with exertion she shuffled slowly into the living room and sank into the cane chair by the French doors that faced onto the garden. She’d missed her mountains, the light and emptiness of the vast sky. Her solitary room on Ward 3A looked out onto a brick wall. She couldn’t see the sky at all, not even a sliver. The only way she could tell if the sun was shining was by the light reflecting in the brickwork, the changes in hue. On a bright day the bricks gleamed like tiger’s eye. On a grey day they were a dull flesh pink.

Now Isabel surveyed her garden, still marvellous despite the weeds and rampant lawn. The hollyhocks blazed magenta. The roses drooped with lush scarlet blooms, the honeysuckle smothered the archway and on the horizon Morven and Scaraben glowed purple in the evening sun. She sat there for a long while, just breathing, in, out, in, out. She was alive. She was home. No one could hurt her now.

And then she saw the boots. Dirty workmen’s boots placed casually in the middle of the kilim rug she’d brought back from Turkey. They were caked with mud, one boot tilted as if they’d been cast off in a hurry, the soles worn, the brown leather wrinkled with age. Her chest tightened in panic and she scanned the room for other signs of disturbance. Everything seemed much as she’d left it the day of the accident other than a layer of dust and a few cobwebs. There were books and magazines in a tidy pile on the coffee table, logs stacked by the wood burner and dead daffodils in a stained glass vase on the window sill. Her grandmother’s vintage clock had stopped at five to five.

Isabel couldn’t bear to touch the disgusting boots with her bare hands so she nudged them closer with her crutch. One of them tipped over and a tiny square of paper fell out. Leaning unsteadily from her chair she picked it up and unfolded it with trembling fingers.

Written in red biro on a torn piece of graph paper was just one word, ‘remember’.

To be continued…

image by the author

Rehab

finally                       upright
and                            braced
swinging                  dead
legs                            between
parallel                     bars
I                                  struggle
towards                    reflections
of                               myself
one                            step
after                          another
says                           physio
walk                          tall
says                           physio
good                          girl
says                           physio
visiting                     hour
enter                         mother
face                           crumpled
and                            pale
my                             baby
is                               broken
she                            says

 

 

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Moth Dance

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.

 

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Self portrait by the author

 

 

 

Leeds 76

The ambulance man with striking
green eyes stroked the inside
skin of her teenage arm as she lay
strapped (for her own safety) on the reeking
canvas of another NHS.
If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!

She thought he was, maybe
trying to be nice (but those alien
fingers were electric…) No comfort
blanket, suspended in L10 skeletal
traction, legs akimbo and knicker
-less (for her own hygiene), a monster pain
-ted by Hieronymus Bosch. The male charge
nurse with watery grey eyes brought gin
secrets in a Barr’s Cream Soda bottle, hot
take-away through her open
window of gritty nights.
She thought he was, maybe,
trying to be nice (but gin made her sick,
she liked Babycham).
The glass half
-full on the sunny side.
Cheer up, might never happen,
said the porter with lizard pink
eyes taking her down to a strip
-lit basement, down corridors
lined with conduits.
If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down But Not Out

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been away for some time but I’m back, or at least for now. Apologies for my absence from Blogging World and the world in general. So far I’ve spent five weeks trapped in a small hospital room in Inverness following a fractured femur. Tragically my treatment has not gone according to plan. After the initial operations to repair the original fracture I have acquired another THREE broken bones in my legs due to careless handling and bad advice from Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists. And the worst news is that the fresh broken bones are not fixable. Any surgery could make things worst not better.  No one seems to know what the prognosis is.

I’m trying to stay positive but it’s hard. I don’t know how much mobility or independence I will ever regain. It’s also hard not to be consumed with anger for the so-called experts in this hospital who have damaged me and are now trying to sweep their negligence under the carpet. I have not even had a proper apology or any acknowledgement that anything has gone wrong.

Anyway, when my mind is not fried by morphine, pain and exhaustion I will try to post here on The Purple Hermit and I hope my followers and supporters will understand.

 

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Absent Without Leave

                    

Flat on his bed in ICU, he reads pillow stories;
starched landscapes of the broken
road to Basrah carved in skin.

Beyond the window Wakefield drifts,
wet roofs and one naked
willow under billowing skies. He twists

that way, this way to see the tree
and Nil by Mouth taped to iron railings
while dust and paint shavings tally

time. The clock on the wall clings
forever to five to five.
His mouth is a desert storm.

In the morning, soft shoes slip slap on linoleum.
Nurses giggle, shuffle behind trolleys of tea,
dispensing toast and potions of sweet opium.

At night, they play cards under a green lamp.
Out of range, the falcon’s shadow
maps his name on the wall.

 

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Original photograph by the author

 

Red Blush

Seized by the scent of sun on skin
I make the first cut, split the almost sphere.
The morning ritual slicing from the center
around each segment, skirting the circumference,
parting flesh from flesh.  Blood perfect,
topped with a glace cherry
and served on blue china.

I want to cry out when she opens her gown
showing husks of missing breasts.
She was a stewardess before,
on the Queen Mary criss-crossing the Atlantic.
Now, she’s the kind lady on Ward 5
sharing grapefruit with a braided child
as winter sun breaks.

 

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