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Image by Andrew Spencer

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BOSTON / ARRIVAL

Boston Public Library

CW: depictions of hospitalization/ambulance transportation, epilepsy, childhood chronic illness

Route 3 two lanes to Boston
north New Hampshire through every downtown
in 1948
before fast food drive-throughs, malls, big box stores
parking lots the size of football fields
traffic lights triggered by subsurface signal wires,
uniformed policemen direct traffic
or you sit
waiting for courtesy
cops know eighty percent of drivers,
Friday evening shopping
everybody knows everybody
keep their cars in the same parking spaces
all summer evenings long
sit on the front fenders
to chat with neighbors
whom they live near
whom they hadn’t seen for a week
to share beer.

Travel is slow
no one expects to go
anywhere far fast
we’re waved through
my ambulance is a hearse
an embossed brass plate advertises
my uncle’s funeral home
special favor in pre-Christmas December dark

            ( I had opened all but seven windows of my advent calendar
            with their painted scenes illuminated by back light
            when I pulled the paper flaps aside
            mother explained them. )

headlights carve a journey through evergreen woods
along roads
just creases in the land
between settlements
solitary houses draped with colored lights
set back on dormant lawns
an electric candle blinks in every window.

Acceleration pulls for faster speed
a straightaway.

Metallic     

       click
            click

floor dimmer switch
vehicle lights rake the cab
I see mother’s face
looking through the glass partition
back at me
strapped in the gurney
bolted to the floor.

No sounds until the ambulance stops

       ( Massachusetts line
            had they made phone calls before they left
      ( I wonder now )
            or flagged down
      a state highway trooper? ) then

police car sirens never cease.
Kaleidoscope of city streets
lamps high poles store signs
through the hearse’s horizontal windows
flashing
at me
traffic halted at city intersections
we enter old Boston
more sirens

       ( Huntington Avenue )

buildings hedge the crowded corridor
concern in my mother’s voice.
I’m alright I assure her.

      White gowns surround me at Boston Children’s

      ( Was the air chilled
      Was there snow? )

jerk
lift
set down
wheeled gurney rolls

      [              ]
           ER
      [              ]
      reception
      [             ]
      elevator   

      cavernous

     ( I would later know )
     ( upper floor wing pointing into Brookline )

barricade of the nurses’ station
library lamps hang over desks
phones
beds with children
line long aisles
subdued lighting at night
attendants move from bed to bed,
over some, net hoods cover small heads
no one smiles.

Thrash me
in my restraining straps,
grand mal seizures

    ( doctor’s record
    every twenty minutes ),


gurney to bed
torture
fever sweats wrack.

penicillin
phenobarbital
Dilantin

( eight years journey
in twilight

begins this night ).

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BOSTON / DEPARTURE

The dull sun low at the end of the wing
grandmother waits to see me

 

          ( on a porch I remember
          clearly
          but in photographs
          no porch, no screens,
          not summer
          memory not what it seems )

 

she stood by the bed

 

            indistinct
            large over me

 

spoke

 

            ( said what? )
                        I respond
                       Where is mommy?
                       ( She started my father’s family
                                 four boys three girls
                                 in Brookline a few blocks away
                                 I was told
                                             ( or did I learn in nearby Public Library
                                             researching that day
                                             we visited Copley Square
                                                        sat for the mass at Trinity
                                                        Phillip Brooks’ church
                                             the ornate silent reading room
                                             at the head of the staged marble stairway ))

 

Nurses prepare the beds near me
remove breathing hoods
canopies
raise safety rails
arrange coat racks of hanging tubes
tuck sheets
talk to small kids
motionless heads
step on clutches to release beds
onto wheels
push pull the bed away
rubber squealing on polished granite.

 

Midnight alone in the darkened corridor
nurses’ station glows
a fireplace far
shadows move
shades momently obscure
Christmas lights colors
festivity in the building’s other wing
I ask a nurse who walks by
why wasn’t I
moved there
they are too sick to go home for Christmas.
I think, they are going to die
or am I?

 

Nurses’ station a hard wood barricade
someone unknown brings me a chair,
they ignore me sitting there
confused
your father is coming to get you.

 

Every space black light subdued
elevator opens noisy doors huge
people leave
people enter
I hear no conversation
nor phones ring
nurses confer lips move

 

           ( a play in a theater

           anticonvulsants

           I wonder )

 

I fidget
I am uncomfortable
I complain
I wait.
How long could father’s drive from home take?

 

He is by me
bends over
picks me up
lays me on his shoulder

 

         ( I remember flopping across it
         no wheelchair
         no gurney
                     ( can that be right? ))

 

carries me
soft jolt of the elevator
descent drop

 

           ( that is all )
 

family 4-door sedan
a blanket strap
in the back
Route 3
Garland Street
cold of northern New Hampshire
car door opens
home
front porch
two benches

 

            (an outdoor setting for Kodak portraits
            a box camera with no flash
            color film
            father in his brown Army uniform
            sitting by mother
            me in a pea jacket in another
            a chevron shoulder patch
            with red hair
            an aging of film colors?)

 

front door
hall
living room
red floor carpet
incandescent glow
mother’s joy
Christmas tree
water filled stand at its base
strung lights

 

           white red blue green
           tinsel shimmers
           in the wind from the opened door
           star on top

 

wrapped gifts.
 

            ( My infant sister
            six months old
            swaddled in blankets
            sleeps in mother and father’s bedroom. )

 

Father carries me upstairs to bed.
I think, I did not die
Christmas eve.

*These pieces were originally published in Bonnie’s Crew at Bonnie's Crew #6 - December 2019 by Bonnie's Crew - Issuu

RON TOBEY grew up in northern New Hampshire, USA, and attended the University of New Hampshire, Durham. He and his wife live in West Virginia, where they raise cattle and keep goats and horses. He is an imagist poet, grounding experiences and moods in concrete descriptions, including haiku, storytelling, recorded poetry, and filmic interpretation. He occasionally uses the pseudonym, Turin Shroudedindoubt, for literary and artistic work. He has published in over 30 digital and print literary magazines. His Twitter handle is @Turin54024117.