Ambulant in Twilight
by Roger Patulny
Everything is blue-black
she starts late from a nap
scattering bank statements;
Jack jumps across the covers till she
smacks him with a pillow toward his basket for his dirty PJ top
and mask of royal blue
while his father beeps his Tucson in the driveway.
The sky is a magenta smear
she runs the steel-blue bus down, now
hollow as a broken shoe, and
gasping, texts a joke to Jack about
a bus all stuffed with painted toes as she
sits among the statues, distant masks of colour
stiff against the racing cobalt of the clouds;
ambulant in twilight.
She ties her hair beside the sliding door
between a raft of tests;
temperature, symptoms, hot spot lists,
she drinks her herbs and
sticks her COVID coloured dot spot
to the cornflower of her dress
and gasps and laughs
to the flicker of fluorescent
about the empty pallets
bare of masks and sanitiser,
and worries with her colleagues if
there will be enough for after?
She does the dance of donning
body bound in sterile gown and plastic covers for her shoes
a wimple of a balaclava, goggles, mask
and face shield last but for the
and walks the sober, foggy path along the designated blue line.
Freshly unwrapped forceps
lie sweatless on the tray
of basic instruments tonight
she passes a retractor,
worries Jack is not in bed
and dreams of holidays, colour books and cigarettes
till the diathermy smoke
from the cauterised flesh
produces aerosol and risk
and she sighs and dons again.
Disposing of the Rampleys stained with
his dad calls with the bad news;
he can’t do next week after all, away
and so she pleads again to change her shifts then
puts the needle holders down,
exits to her favourite band
to get a can of cocktail from the café, then
texts Jack to say good morning and
don’t be late for school and
shuts her eyes to feel the sun.
PHOTO: Georgia Brown at work in a hospital in Australia.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The creative approach behind this poem started with a focus on the lived experience of my friend Georgia, and the challenges she goes through balancing a highly complex job as a surgical nurse with caring for her young son as a single parent. The poem evolved as she revealed complexities about the fascinating work she does — from dress procedures to use of instruments — and the complications COVID has brought to this world and to her life and well-being.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Patulny is based in Sydney, Australia. He is an academic, writer, and poet, with fiction published in the The Suburban Review and poems in Cordite, Poets Corner InDaily, the UK arts magazine Dwell Time, The Rye Whisky Review, Indolent Books, and the Mark Literary Review; excerpts and links to Roger’s recent published creative works can be found here.