Hiding within my son's clothes,
it lay unseen until bedtime when
it scurried out from his sleeve, explaining
his tears through dinner and
the nick on his wrist spotted
only moments before.
It was not the night to visit Emergency.
Wind and rain buffeted the drive, as
unidentified spider in jar beside me,
I punctuated my frantic breaths with
comma prayers and apostrophe thoughts
of the worst that could happen
in a waiting room at night.
Arriving to warnings plastered on doors,
I tried not to gawk at the three who were kept
behind a sealed door, faces masked,
breathing an obvious chore.
And while we waited, my son
calm, no swelling, spider determined
to see out the night, I pondered
risking it and going home,
but stayed instead, and tried to love
my neighbour from a distance,
sharing smiles that said,
"We're in this together," while mind returned
again, again to the microbes that may,
may not circle the air, and tried not to fear
the pestilence stalking the night, or the day
that I may become one others fear.
Hospital room. While my uncle and I tried
to tend to my grandmother’s needs, we heard
behind the curtain divider
a granddaughter and grandson discuss
and how the west has avoided death
while the east (both fresh from travel) takes
the wiser path, rubbing
face and hands in body ash
and staring death’s immanence in the eyes.
“What a drain on public money,” they decried,
to describe their grandmother’s dying days.
I fetched pillows and poured water into
polystyrene cups (she never drank from those
when she had a choice)
and tried to stare my last enemy down.
Where is your victory? Where’s your sting?
All I could muster as prayer was, Come.
The taste of hospitals and airports says:
You are here
under whatever circumstances,
no doubt stressed.
Have a coffee.
No-one will care if you cry;
everyone is going somewhere different
Everyone is crying or dazed,
on edge yet kept
in secure wards
or waiting gates,
in comfy chairs.
Anything could happen, and
everything is happening. This
is the taste, the smell
of hospitals and airports, just
like churches should all be.