Andy Jackson’s Among the Regulars (papertiger media, 2010) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize. His poems have recently appeared in Meanjin, Cordite, Wordgathering and Medical Journal of Australia. He is currently working on a series of poems exploring medical tourism, and a book of portrait poems of people with Marfan Syndrome. He blogs at amongtheregulars.wordpress.com
The nurse asks again but you haven’t heard.
You are passing the scene in slow motion,
face pressed against the glass of the newspaper,
something unspeakable turning in your bones
like pleasure. Not relief at your safety.
Not homesickness cloaked with sympathy.
Or even some remnant you’d mistakenly
call animal. You don’t know for a long moment
who you are – the young slum-dweller
who ran through the toxic smoke to rescue
patients and now lies in intensive care?
The hospital directors taken into custody?
The crowd clamouring at the gates for the bodies
of their loved ones? Or the police
resorting to batons to subdue them?
She takes your blood pressure and temperature.
The alarms and sprinklers are switched on
and work. All the emergency exits are unlocked.
No boxes block the stairwells. Only
your fingers are black with newsprint.
Mounds of rubbish sifted by goats, dogs,
rag-pickers, collected by trucks
of the mind. Traffic negotiated in the peripheries
of sight and sound. One purple flower
exploding beneath the flyover. The necessary
genius of a bicycle he rides with his hands,
his legs contorted and useless.
The quick blink of a white bullock
as she’s whacked again with a stick.
Six days in, and it’s beginning
to seem like I’m seeing today what I saw yesterday.
A mange-weary dog looks both ways
before crossing the road. A woman
pulls the tarp off her carefully arranged pile
of mouldy textbooks and airport fiction.
An ambulance’s quiet siren swims
through the intersection. It doesn’t matter
what day it is, where I could be. Someone
is carefully repairing a busted umbrella.