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ICU

John Upton
Med J Aust 2013; 199 (10): 705. || doi: 10.5694/mja13.11068
Published online: 18 November 1913

is a fortress, you press a button

and wait

like some malevolent bacterium.

“I’m here to see my wife”

a click, a heavy sliding. Arterial corridors

a nurse at a station

an orderly with a trolley of folded white sheets.

Another nurse, a tiny ante-room.

Hygiene is vital: over your clothes, you pull

a white gown of tough matt paper, you tie the back

slip on a face-mask, elastic behind your ears —

your breathing’s toxic.

An electric ecology

bed, ventilator, ECG, all centred

on your wife, invaded by pneumonia.

Somehow you’ve reached the soul.

You hold her hand, you smile

and watch those eyes

see past this, past today

backwards into both-of-you.

Nurses come and go, shifts start and end.

You sit, you walk, you stow the useless gown

and mask into a rubbish bin for burning.

The hospital exhales you. You drive, you sleep.

You press a button, name, door slides.

This morning the nurse doesn’t insist you tie

your sterile gown.

Beside the bed, holding that failing hand

you have no mask.

  • John Upton


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