Nox

1 August 2016

A poem addressed to Anne Carson


My husband is wheeled from emergency to theatre
along a hallway carpeted with silence.
Escorted to a waiting room, almost fin de siècle Victorian,
I survey medical books encased by glass and
blighted like old taxidermy.
The registrar, wearing a Freudian beard, stalls at the door,
unimpressed by my progress in mourning.
The heart has failed, he insists.
He draws a childish diagram on a scrap of paper
pressed onto the coffee table.
I must strike him as thoughtless, but I am thinking.
Hospitals were not always like this.
When I was a girl, gurney wheels trundled on a bright-and-shine floor
that disinfected all memory of grief
—sanitised the griever, whole.
Now, with the registrar spilling words, I am cleaning up after him,
revising his sentences into tidy units of five or ten,
repeating the most pleasing combinations again and again.
My fingers type at my side, next to invisible.
The only person who would see them has, by now, been anaesthetised.

I did not invent the typewriter, but at some point in the high school
typing pool, it secretly invented me:
aaa space bbb.
Before then, I was silent as a rabbit beneath
the zig zag of a classroom ceiling,
enthralled by Pythagorean heaven.
Then suddenly: a surge of electricity.
The machine was oneiric, like good gothic technology.
It brought words to my fingertips—words, words, words
to be purified through mathematics.
But here the registrar, persisting with his lesson on the heart,
knows nothing of my scientific art.
When he finally leaves, satisfied I am pathological,
I remove a laptop from my black bag of tricks,
usurping the drawing of cardiac arrest.
Nox is not here.
Your book on grief is at home amongst my alphabetised books,
a perfect accordion sheaf folded in a rectangular box.
You might understand how I compose.
This elegiac poem, recounted just so.

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