Reading Keats in Hospital
A poem for Salvador
(now age 19)
From the pillows of the sofa, you avert your gaze.
You no longer want us to talk. At desk or stove, I am peripheral.
Don’t you remember those times before? I wonder as I make
your preferred dessert. The sting of the bedroom light, as I checked
your complexion, debating the edge between ash white and blue,
you like a fish out of element, about to die, the calls to emergency lines.
the paramedics in the night and a babel to you of words like - ‘pneumonia’,
‘collapsed lung’, ‘asthma’ and ‘oxygen supply’, the surreal gadgetry
in the back of the ambulance van,
the ‘time travel; journey through some kind of portal we later said.
You, buoyed on medical attention,
Prince of a half empty ward, nebuliser attached to your pearl white face,
dislodged to make your requests, then back in place.
A range of drinks and half-finished snacks on the swing out table,
cherry stones used to passed down rhyming chants,
quoted like half forgotten mantras.
A sealed view of the London Eye.
Film screen windows so vast and pristine that it felt like we
floated as though beyond portal or boundary line,
hospital robes like angel gowns granted
by some unexpected God.
A vermillion zig-zag charting every abyss of relapse and recovery.
You steamed and mute finding a route like a gilded thread,
a was through the Odes,
restricted to hospital trolley and bedside chair,
as I read of nightingales, and ‘mellow fruitfulness’,
sand waves and sorrow glutted on a morning rose.
Surely your delight is measured against those airless, melancholy days.
Now you post pictures of the skate-park in Camden Town on the Internet and
I do not ask.
I picture your face like a bud of possibility, the oxygen mask in place,
as I read aloud, ‘And full grown lambs loud bleat from hilly borne.’I do not say.