Next! The nurse taps at her clipboard.
Smith, next, please! Smith blinks and gapes,
rising slowly. Me. Smith? Points to himself.
Still can’t believe it. Smith. Yes. I’m Smith.
Yes, I am. The nurse is the patient one now,
a study in peremptory vacancy,
as Smith shuffles to another waiting room.
Fresh from casualty, orderlies wheel steel
trolleys in, and the ambulance crews still
have much to do before this shift is shifted.
Waiting, in the ‘waiting room’, serum bottles
wobble and lines of ‘clients’ stare.
What time is it? Huh? What?
How - long - have - you - been - here?
The halt, the lame, the blind,
the bandaged and bewildered,
a beggar’s opera chorus tuning in and out
of daytime TV’s blaring, inane pitch.
Beds, beds, did someone say beds?!
You could hold your breath forever.
Better just to stare the paint right off the wall,
read posters on flat feet, the correct insertion
of an enema. Are you still waiting?
Are-you-still-awake? Fresh from theatre,
Smith trails bandages, wires, a triple by-pass.
Then a blowfly, which doesn’t have
to wait or wear white gloves, dies quickly
on a fly-sprayed wall. Lucky little devil.
Who is that man? Oh, it’s Smith again.
A second hand falls, ker-clunk, as he waves
new bandages above Admissions.
Bandages like bunting flap everywhere.
Such histrionic displays are, of course,
patiently ignored. Smith must wait his turn.
A stretcher crew arrives and removes
a body stiffening in a chair. It clasps a
well-read magazine. Spiders cover
drip bottles on a stand with sticky webs.
What time do you have? Who cares? Even
the children, who were the only signs
of life, now sit white haired, flat-lining.
Smith? Yes. He’s anointed. He is called!
Miraculously. Stands, lip trembling
and staggers down the disinfected ward.
The room explodes with coughing, sneezes.
A scream speeds up the queue. It snakes conga-
fashion, three times round ‘post-op’,
then out into the siren-scalpeled air.
Next, a familiar corpse is wheeled in on a bed –
Did you see that!? A bed, an actual bed…!
And that nice Mr Smith is lying on it.
A champagne bucket in his elbow clasp,
a chuckle through raw teeth. Smith’s a winner,
a grinner! Wheeled out, and into legend!
The nurse fluffs up his pillows: “Yesssss…!
Goooood..! Doctor will see you now.”