“Hospital Sequence” by Isolde Ó’ Brolcháin Carmody

In Sligo Hospital

I.

On great hills overlooking towns
the infectious houses stand,
heads held above miasma.
Tumorous growths accrue
around poor-house cores;
industrial ergonomics
process births to deaths,
utilising local geography
and gravity for convenient disposal.
The entire institution
based on an increasing gradient.
Even sleeping people
roll around on wheels
through esoteric departments –
named and arranged
to confuse and exclude.

My old house
is a box to keep old people in
with easy pedestrian access
to the nursing home next door.
The traffic is busiest
when residents finally leave.
The old famine workhouse
built on a pit of plague bones

 


II.

Smoking

‘Welcome to Sligo University Hospital.
Smoking is not permitted anywhere on the hospital grounds.
Persons wishing to smoke must exit the hospital grounds.
Visitors are required, in the interests of infection prevention, to strictly adhere to the visiting times displayed on notices, and to use skin cleansing rubs on entering and leaving the ward.
Thank you for your cooperation.’

Welcome to outside the hospital building.
Smoking happens whether it is permitted or not.
Persons driven to smoke must acknowledge their obvious weakness.
We share our chosen medication, in the interests of sanity,
as an antidote to doctors,
and nod to each other when entering and leaving the wards.
Thank you for your patients.

 


 

III.

Breathe

We each must breathe our own pain.
For one, the breath comes out as a stream of invective,
swearing, complaint and blame,
and breathing in is the same
a continuous cycle of gripe
whether whispered or shouted
awake or asleep.
For another, the breath sobs
the tight knot at its centre
emitting unconscious moans
this breath refuels,
accelerating into nothingness
strangling itself.

I know of one
that bursts in hilarity
wracking the frame in hysterics
where the weeping is from laughter
and the core crumples up
until it is spent.

My pain breathes nicotine
toxins drawn in deep
each out-breath a sigh of relief
head thrown back to watch the sky
making private clouds
of internal weather.

If you listen long enough,
my pain will speak
on the back of my breath


IV

Meltdown

Maybe this is the day I just melt,
let my face dissolve
and pool in my lap.
I have known, for most of my life,
that this would happen someday.
The day I decide to stop being strong.
Strong women get no sympathy;
only useless admiration.

 


V.

On Landing Out of Doors

Landing out of doors,
depression lifts on birds’ wings
in love with the sky

 


VI.

Roosting

It could be a densely-planted row of trees,
or the brink of a thick wood,
it spits up black bullets
like a mouthful of watermelon seeds,
They, “Jack! Jack!”
And, “Caw! Caw!”
Across the dimming sky,
against the flow of high white clouds,
sauntering, disorganised to dissipation,
lower, a viscous bank
of conglomerate greys
punctured by fire from within,
disguising the shame-faced retreat
of a timid sun, grown shy.
Starlings buffet on currents
still straggling
after rooks and jackdaws
have settled their disputes.

 


VII.

Patient Use Only

This room can only be used patiently.
Patience is the only recourse
when the room is in use
by the elderly lady
wrestling two crutches and a drip stand
like an amputee crab
drifting along ancient ocean floors
to recover her protective nook.

Patience is the only recourse
when waiting for
The Person With The Key
to appear and refill the toilet paper.

Also, when waiting
for the hot water to arrive
down mysterious hidden channels
originating god-knows-where
destined for a wobbly shower-head.

I must be patient with myself
when it takes more time than I expect
to liberate myself from pyjama bottoms;
to find a way of balancing
two recalcitrant crutches
by hooking one cuff onto a grab-rail
and balancing the second on the first –
they inevitably crash to the floor.
Sometimes the patience
inhabits the gap
between intention
and execution
waiting for gravity
to sync with tiny muscles
buried invisibly
within my body.

When entering the room,
you must acknowledge the sign on the door:
“Patient Use Only.”

 


VIII.

Festinating Rhythm

 

How dull to walk
in split common time
two beats to the bar
four bars to a phrase.

Missing the swish of the white cane sweeping
like the whisper of a brush on the snare drum skin
or the syncopated stumble of
the bad leg
going where its
not supposed to.

Some move 
in Three-
Four time
with rests
in the middle
of ev-
ery bar
or
thump out the
down-beat with
walking stick,
crutch, or um-
brella

The most advanced,
the be-boppers,
scat-singers
eschew time signatures
winding up their steps to a frenzy
before releasing their esoteric rhythms
on an unsuspecting floor;
Festinating rhythm.


 

 

 

Isolde ÓBrolcháin Carmody is a writer and performer who moved to Co. Leitrim from Dublin in 1999. She has worked extensively around the North-West and beyond in community theatre and collaborative arts. Her practice is informed by Theatre of the Oppressed and aesthetic accessibility, drawing on the legacy of the Focus Theatre in Ireland.

This biography is available from Writing.ie