The Home – a poem by John Ian Bush

 

Part One

 

Today we visited my Grandma Allison at the nursing home.

I walk through the automatic doors to the smell of urine,

To the sound of ringing phones

And to the screaming voices of the old:

“Where am I?”

“Who are you?”

“God damn it, I wanna go home!”

“Hey, you God damn fool, I wanna go home!”

“Can no one hear me! I’m telling you I wanna go home!”

“Don’t touch me, I don’t know you!”

 

Decoying bodies.

Wrinkled skin.

Catheters.

Adult dippers.

Oxygen machines!

Their groans!

“I need help!” cries an old man in a bed at the end of the hall. “You rotten bastards! You faggots! You son-of-bitches! Somebody help me!”

 

In the lobby, the old pale withered people in their sad worn wheel chairs sit around the television, the weather channel is playing — old people love the weather channel; some smile, some sleep, some mutter to themselves words of nonsensical madness.

 

“I can’t breathe!” the man at the end of the hall screams! “You son-of-bitches! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

 

The feeling of death and approaching death is overwhelming.

I began to think that bed sores have a smell.

Vaseline, God, the smell of it!

They must wash the walls with it!

The windows and counters must be washed with preparation H!

Everything smells like piss, fish and rubbing alcohol.

 

“I can’t breathe!”

He never stops screaming.

 

“I

Can’t

Breathe!

I

Can’t

Breathe!

I can’t Breathe!”

 

The workers and the nurses all ignore this.

I.Vs seem to outnumber the people in this Hell hole.

I was starting to feel very Nihilistic.

 

 

Part Two

 

 

Finally, we’re in Grandma Allison’s room.

She is a stick now,

wrapped in thin, almost yellow skin,

Dressed in a tired old night gown,

4

 

Feet cover with thick socks.

“How are you?” we asked.

She just stared.

 

“How are you feeling today?” we asked.

She turned away.

 

“We love you,” we said.

She moaned in pain.

 

“I can’t breathe! You fuckers! You fuckers! You fuckers! You faggots! You fat whores!” yelled the man down the hall.

 

And she moaned again!

That moan!

That moan!

I thought she’d die with that moan!

 

The Home is full of moans

And Groans!

And cries

And more moans!

5

 

And fucks!

And Helps!

And yelps!

And ringing telephones!

 

The Home is full of shrieks!

And squeal!

And men bawling!

And eyes with tears!

And nurses wearing scrubs and fake grime smiles wheeling in meals,

Meat and potatoes that Grandma Allison won’t eat.

 

Stone Hearts

Out from the core

squeezed stone hearts,

so heavy of feet,

Lumbered on forward,

pumping and pounding, expounding

irregular beat.


Into the cities,

forests, villages,

the glens,

Trudging their muck,

gravelling paths

as they went.


New tablets hewn,

eschewing

natural will,

Passed to the future

legacies voided

then stilled.


Surveyed, as proprietors,

creative accountancy

sighed,

Despoiled, exhausted,

replenishment

hidden inside.


Back to their bothies,

striding inwards

shelter’d from storm,

Trolls suited

underground,

awaiting new time to be born.

Insanity

unnamed

I knew instantly that you were furious. Hunched, seething, in your chair, your vibrations were chunked with rage, clear as clear.

Upon discovering that the signed-on-the-back photo had been smudged, you snarled and muttered imprecations.

Heart in mouth, fear already surging, I tried to think what I had done wrong this time. Was it the fact that I went to get the photo sorted without asking your permission, asking if it was all right to do this?

Just in case, I explained that I had dropped a friend of our elder daughter’s off at her house (having loaned her my little gas heater because they have no heat in the house and she has been unwell) and popped in on my passport application errand on the way back.

I asked if there had been friction between you and one of the children, if you were tired (for it had been a stressful day, and your usual routine had been interrupted); you growled angry negatives.

I was, I confess, concerned about you driving in such a mood, having seen, two years ago, the damage caused by this kind of fury, unwillingness to back down and refusal to ask for help: That previous instance cost us £800 in repairs to the car, but at least no one was harmed.

I tried to suggest that you take the two girls to ballet, and I collect them on my way to choral rehearsal; you wouldn’t hear of it.

The atmosphere thickened upon your return, became more poisonous.

‘I’ll assert myself here,’ I thought,’ and just say that I’ll do the pick-up…’

You erupted in vituperative and incandescent rage, showering me with accusations.

I was, you told me, trying to thrust myself into plans YOU had already made; I was trying to take over; I was being bossy and controlling, as usual – and, NO, I was NOT going to collect the girls; YOU were, and I needed to BUTT OUT.

Your face (which I once thought so handsome) was set in the now all-too-familiar pursed-mouth, mean and threatening stance.

The thought of you driving became ever-more frightening because, in this mood, you have been known to scrape a neighbour’s car, knock wing mirrors off deliberately when walking down the road (because you don’t approve of them being left out) and, on the day we drove to Marlborough, force me to leap into the verge to avoid being hit by the front of your car.

I ran out, terrified, and tried to hold the door of the car open, to stop you going.

‘Please,  Gary,’ I begged, ‘can we just discuss this…’

You shouted, ‘SHUT THE DOOR AND GET BACK INTO THE HOUSE!

And, when I wouldn’t, you turned the key in the ignition – and would, I know, have driven off, even if I had been injured in the process.

I should, I am sure, have just let you drive away – but I was afraid of your unacknowledged capacity for damage and violence when this riled-up.

We tussled over the keys. You scratched and bruised me.

I had to let go in the end, had to retreat. I tried to suggest that we should drive together and discuss it calmly.

‘No,’ you said, ‘I don’t want you in the car. You are NOT coming with me. You have made a scene in the street and you have got bare feet. Get back into the house.’

You were far more concerned about the potential embarrassment caused by my bare feet and the neighbours watching than you were about the bruise on my forearm, the scratches on finger and back of hand, the shaking which I was unable to control.

You drove off – and, as I discovered later, told the girls that we had argued, just in case, as you put it, ‘we got back and found you waiting behind the door with the rolling pin or worse…’

Once you had gone, I gave way to tears and, feeling an absolute need to escape, drove round to local friends.

The next bit is mostly a blank, though I know that they were kind and caring, the way they always are.

But what was dawning ever clearer in my mind was the recognition of a pattern which goes back years, if not decades – and that is your absolute need for things to go the way you have decided they will, and your need to intimidate, bully and punish me if I question your dictats, do things without asking you first or go against rules which shift like the sand.

 

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Melting Pot

The hurting, faceless ones pored over others’ souls in words, amended intention, applied lessons and rewrit the gospel. According to one. Nuances of understanding merged, reformed, reborn. Succouring to union, unknown aim but concordant with ancient wisdom, the melting pot simmered, cauldron of broken limbs and hearts. Stirred by empathy, the magic began. Fluorescent shimmers, greens and purples, yellows to cobalt, metallicised oral blood letting. Tasty on palate, savoured as life in the raw. Sipped from runcible, penned with ink, tapped into life on a keyboard. Faceless, not voiceless, they charmed new life in bubbles no one could burst. Evanescence materialised by the many.

Rebuilding Bridges

Our realities were where they lived. They had always lived among us. Mingling and breeding, filtering the external ugliness over millenia, shape-shifting within families, extending their reach and influence, feeding their appetite for souls. We bled spiritual plasma to these psychic vampires; the Trolls piercing, sucking us almost dry and moving on to greener pastures while burning our bridges between the possible and the proscribed. Sometimes the medication helped, blurred the edges of the fairy tale we lived. Sometimes nothing helped. Spent souls huddled in silence awaiting the Banshee, keening their need to end the days, pleading for the stake that would ease their pain and transformation. Some bridges remained. We began the Rebuild.

Only Sometimes In Dreams

For many of us, the mental anguish came first; the sliding scale of madness on an undiagnosed spectrum. I had thought it was only me. Not until the The Glazing did the truth begin to reveal itself in the concordant pain of all the others. We all began to awaken then, struggling from a dreamed consciousness, wisps of the ethereal floating out and mingling all the components of perceived reality. Pixels of knowing merged and began to take shape, the emergent visuals clearer before opened eyes. Hazy awareness fought to rise amid the desire to sleep on in blissful ignorance where haunting occurred only sometimes in dreams. But only sometimes.

A Good Citizen Now

It is so good to feel the pain now and be recognisant of its source. Every stabbing flesh wound and mental piercing takes me back to the Day of Great Awareness. Everything before then is now a nightmare of nothingness and unknowing, an abysmal non-life centred around their planned illusory calm; a place and time where innocence and ignorance reeked vapid. Those sugar-coated pills issued for protection are flushed now, winding round bends designed to confuse and obliterate the facts. The fact now is I’m alive to their game. Now that I know the rules I intend to break them all. Like a good militant citizen.