New poem: Pneumonia

About the last few months…

My father

After he fell, he crawled, his bed
an agonising hour away. Next morning,
he wanted nothing more than water.
The ambulance was quick and smooth,
but admission took forever. In ED, we watched
as the trolleys trundled slowly by.
Later, a ward, a bed of his own. Floor 5,
visiting hours, the path to his room
trodden into the base of my skull.

Two weeks of partial progress, then collapse.

Called to Hutt Hospital to watch him fade away.
He rallies, asks about the cricket;

I tell him, smile, hold his hand. He fades again.
“It isn’t looking good,” he says. I nod. The nurses

whisper, “Sleep somewhere close at hand.”

The call comes at 5am. By the time I’ve dressed

and driven over, it’s too late. Five minutes earlier,
he left his ninety-four years of life behind.
They leave me with his body and the gentle push
to clear the room, remove the corpse, pave the path
that starts with mortuary and ends in funeral.

An interlude

So much work. The funeral went well,
after that scare about the payment. The estate:
he chose wisely, bringing the professionals on board.

And his house. It seemed so bare, until we had

to empty it inside a month – that deadline
self-inflicted, an own goal worthy of the Phoenix.

So many journeys in his little car, brave tiny engine

conquering the motorway. Emptying Naenae,
filling Mt Victoria with clutter and memories.


Then me
As soon as we finished, pneumonia got me too,
grace note to a hard spring cold, breath short
and shallowing, heart racing to keep up.

Ambulance, hospital. Gentle and angry nurses,

kindness and rough treatment. A doctor who finally –
finally! – paid attention. Antibiotics prescribed
and a day later I’m discharged, back home
confused, dependent and weak, showing all
the self-control of a fretful baby.

Now perhaps I’m two or three. Emotions

flare and burn and dim. In the sunshine,
I take small steps, sit down, cry
at small and stranger things. A gradual
recovery, while outside, the world
points birds and insects at my ears,
suggests I could be getting on with things,
tests the limits of my energy, invites me to rejoin

the long descending trudge towards my end.

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