Apr. 6, 2005

In The Hospital

by George Garrett

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Poem: "In the Hospital," by George Garrett from Days of Our Lives Lie in Fragments (Louisiana State University Press).

In the Hospital

Here everything is white and clean
as driftwood. Pain's localized
and suffering, strictly routine,
goes on behind a modest screen.

Softly the nurses glide on wheels,
crackle like windy sails, smelling of soap,
I'm needled and the whole room reels.
The Fury asks me how I feel

and, grinning turns to the brisk care
of an old man's need, he who awake
is silent, at the window stares,
sleeping, like drowning, cries for air.

And finally the fever like a spell
my years cast off. I notice now
nurse's firm buttocks, the ripe swell
of her breasts. It seems I will get well.

Next visitors with magazines;
they come whispering as in church.
The old man looks away and leans
toward light. Dying, too, is a routine.

I pack my bag and say goodbyes.
So long to nurse and this Sargasso Sea.
I nod to him and in his eyes
read, raging, the seabird's lonely cries.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the screenwriter Dudley Nichols, born in Wapakoneta, Ohio (1895). He wrote screenplays in Hollywood during the thirties and forties, including Stagecoach (1939), The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), and The Big Sky (1952). He was famous for having his characters deliver long speeches about justice, truth, and brotherhood; his nickname in Hollywood was "The Preacher."

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde was arrested for sodomy after failing to prove his case of libel against the Marquis of Queensbury. The Marquis had accused Wilde of having an affair with his son. In custody, Wilde complained, "If this is how Queen Victoria treats her prisoners, then she doesn't deserve to have any."

It's the birthday of the poet Dan Andersson, born in Sweden (1888). He was born to a wretchedly poor family in a small town. The family thought they might emigrate to join relatives in Minnesota, and sent him there at the age of fourteen to see what their prospects might be, but things were no better there than they had been in Sweden, and Andersson came home without a dime. He was self-educated, and read widely on his own-Kant and Schopenhauer, and the poems of Tagore. He's best known for a book of poems called Tales of a Charcoal Burner (1914).

It's the birthday of the naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, born in London (1810). He started the world's first aquarium, in Regent's Park, London, which opened in 1853.

On this day in 1748, excavations began at Pompeii, a Roman city destroyed in a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. The young Bourbon King Charles III heard about the beautiful marble statues unearthed in a nearby town, and he wanted to have some of his own. The excavations at Pompeii and at nearby Herculaneum became one of the most popular attractions on the Grand Tour of Europe. The clean lines of the exposed ruins inspired the Neo-classical movement in art and architecture.

On this day in 1327, the poet Petrarch saw Laura for the first time. It was on Good Friday, in the church of Saint Claire in Avignon. Her identity has never been confirmed; some scholars doubt she actually existed. Petrarch dedicated three hundred and sixty-six sonnets to her, some of which were written long after her death.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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