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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Five Beds, Respiratory Ward

after Ithaka:
Lisa Kelly
Mary is waiting, breathing and waiting,
breathing shallowly, waiting and waiting
for a breeze to carry her vessel to the Brompton.
A sea-sick shanty, I’m going to the Brompton,
soon I’ll be setting out for the Brompton,
all my notes are at the Brompton.
Nurse, is there any news from the Brompton?
But Mary is moored to her oxygen tubing,
today there is no fair passage to the Brompton,
so while she is waiting, I take her comb
and scratch her back under her gown
where there is an itch she cannot reach
and she is itching, itching, itching,
itching to get underway for the Brompton.

With each breath, Jenny’s lung tumours move.
Now one cowers on her spine. When she moves,
like a Cyclops’s eye, it looks to make her shrink.
Soon radiotherapy will make it shrink.
What you bring inside your soul can make you shrink.
I’m on a journey. I’ve never for one moment shrunk,
never thought ‘why me’. I’m not going to shrink.
I’m 53, my first grandchild is due. I’ll prove
I can beat this. Her thoughts raised high to not shrink
her rare excitement. I ask about her long road.
She has plans for her business, a partner to share the load.
It will be full of discovery – alternative therapies,
adventures with the family. I will try everything ...

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