Instead of sleep she invents a story about a mother and a boy
and an enormous picnic. There is enough food to feed a horse
one crunchy apple, two spinach pies, three artichoke hearts
she misthinks and plots the best things to overfill a picnic basket.
She wakes to a transitional sky.
All afternoon she is awake (sleep awake)
with liquid colour, adrift in the disembodied
voices. When she stands her head spins
so she lies on the beautiful sheet of lightness.
She bathes in white light daily until the heaviness
dissolves. She feels so light she could float above
the hospital beds through the window and over
the streets jammed with cars and corners
past the television sets blaring and the news
on Radio National, above the babies hungry
to be held and the little laps of luxury.
She imagines flowers in a vase on the table.
She imagines dark glasses to wear.
She imagines high-octane conversation.
She lies on the sheet of contradictions.
The district nurse comes to visit her
on day two and tells her
she has slipped
through the paperwork.
Just like an eel.
Just shower, doesn’t matter if it gets wet.
Whatever you do keep it dry. Blow-dry it!
Do some exercises to get your heart pumping.
Eat bucketloads of seaweed.
Han out the washing then let your fingers crawl up the wall.
No vacuuming or lifting heavy things.
Say hello to trees.
No hanging out the washing and definitely no sweeping.
Say hello to the next-door neighbour, the man on the street and the lost dog.
Take Panadol for 48 hours that’s all you need.
You’ll be back to normal before you know it.
Feeling pain? Well dear you have been cut.
Try walking in bare feet.
Everything gets written down.
Everything gets written down again.
Everything gets written down in black ink.
Still they get the address wrong.
In theory they have all the details.
The excerpts above are pages 43 – 49 of Paula Green’s collection, Slip Stream, that talks about her experience of having breast cancer. I reviewed the collection on Landfall Review Online, and of all the collections I read last year it has stuck with me the most. Whenever I read Green’s work I am inspired by her experimentation with form. For example Slip Stream can be read as one long poem, or many untitled poems. I can’t recommend the collection enough.
For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.