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Tragedy walks through their doors


In the Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre

I hate it when they usher you straight through to the Room.
I've never been in the Room but I always knew I would hate it.

I hate the box of tissues waiting for your tears.
I have seen that box of tissues before.

I asked a security guard what the Room was called.
I felt such a need to write an accurate poem.

He told me it was called the Grievance Room.
I looked askance, although I had a grievance.

He offered me the use of their Spirituality Centre.
I declined. But made sure of their Smoke Zone.

A pagoda arrangement out by the helipad.
A birdbath filled with sand for centrepiece.

My daughter's injury is not time critical.
She will arrive by chopper in an hour, or two.

It's too early for the fighting drunks.
But the legless, weeping girls are arriving.

I hate the way I have to write this poem
to send it off into the future where

time doesn't move by fits and starts as
my silly old heart thumps and leaps.

Into the future, all smoothed, (like this moment,
perhaps, like this dull, exquisite, ordinary moment.

And someone else is getting it in the neck.
Someone else is on fire as if they were alive.)

I hate the way my tragedy walks in through their doors
20, 30, 40 times a day.

I hate the way I strike up conversations with people
seeking comfort, like a needy needy needy person.

I hate these magazines. Famous faces who have
already split getting married on a beach, barefoot.

An ICU nurse on lunchbreak in the middle of the night
confesses it is called the Distressed Relative's Room.

I have the name. (Of it.)
I am safe. (From it.)

If I was a much nicer person I would
go down to the Spirituality Centre.

There is a book and people write poems in it.
Messages, wishes. The things that they feel.

I hate the way it should console me
but I will start criticising, I know I will.

Picky picky picky. Bathos, slop and bilge, tripe.
Already I am planning to edit, tweak, spell check.

Jennifer Compton is a poet and playwright who sometimes writes prose. She is in residence until September in Randell Cottage in Wellington, New Zealand.



Topic tags: In the Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre, new australian poem, jennifer compton



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Existing comments

Gets it, bang on the nail. Good one, Jennifer.

peter matheson | 05 August 2008  

One of the best, though it's hard to choose. Painfully self-observing.

Anna Bell | 10 August 2008  

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