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Friday 8 February 2013

Christmas in Hospital

Special air, dad said --
and mum was coming, too.
Magic stuff to make me well --
and Dr Shellswell would be there.

I saw the place at once:
the shop had barley sugar walls
and gold shelves stocked
with wanda and spells and crystal balls

and jars of coloured air.
Behind the counter, Dr Shellswell,
tall in wizard's hat,
was opening his bag of tricks:

stethoscope, pink medicine,
some pills -- and best of all,
the book of British Empire Stamps
he always brought to swap with me.

A white bus with a red cross
took us to the magic shop
for us to buy the air.
Then wafted on a magic carpet 

through a cave called A and E
where silver kettles belching steam
were filled with knives and kinds
of things I'd never seen before.

I made it crystal-clear, I thought:
two armies I had left at home
teetering on the brink of war 
(one was bunkered in my bed)-- 

of course I could not stay to tea!
It was the sparkling Christmas tree
I think that changed my mind -- also
that Santa would be there that night.

In the morning, true as true,
a Snow White doll and a Noah's Ark.
Across from me, a terrorist,
a sleeper 'till the time was right,

who'd had some heavy armour brought
by Santa in the night.
He'd send his mighty tanks, he said,
to kill or capture my Snow White.

This is another rewrite of an old poem (partly because I'm on a mission to make some that are important to me somewhat leaner and meaner) but also, in this case, rewritten in acceptance of Victoria C Slotto's invitation to submit poems based on early childhood memories for this week's Meeting the Bar at dVerse Poets
These are actually my first significant memories. I would have been five. It was just before the outbreak of war. Interestingly, what I imagined has stayed more vivid than the reality of how things were and what happened. (This leaves some room for manoeuvre when writing, as - for instance - I had imagined several scenarios for "going to this magic place to get the air".)


Mary said...

Interesting how the reality of an experience blends so well with unreality. I would guess you had a high fever and these were the results of fever dreams in part...plus the very real fears of war. I am glad you are working on your important writings, Dave. They will be treasured by someone someday.

Ygraine said...

Wow...what a stupendous tour through the mind of a child!
Your visit to hospital became a truly magical excursion into the land of fantasy, and I was carried along with you every step of the way.

The bravery of this imaginative little boy genuinely touched my heart. :)

Brian Miller said...

def interesting...ha on the one keeping us from christmas and sleeping til just the right time...it would be interesting too on the cusp of the war...it would def help cement that memory for you...

Claudia said...

really like the blend of real and imagination here.. you paint a great atmosphere as well...a highly enjoyable read dave

hyperCRYPTICal said...

It is odd what memories stick with us Dave.

My first memories are hospital based - two occasions when I was three. I can't recall the whole story - but what I do remember, I checked out with my parents and memories were true.

Anna :o]

Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a fantastic write. It puts me in mind of Robert Louis Stevenson. Great work, Dave!

Helen said...

This would qualify as phantasmagorical if we didn't know these were your first memories .. actually your poem reads like a wild far-out fairy tale fantasy.

Tabor said...

It is lean and somewhat mean. Toy soldiers, I am sure that many children still play with those, but I do not see it among the children that I know. There is a little Chocolate Factory in this hospital experience as well.

Victoria said...

Oh, Dave, this is brilliant--the flow of the meter, the story-telling effect. Just beautiful. I suspect that many of my memories a mightily flavored with imagination, as well as my mother's tendency to weave happily-ever-after stories into her recalling. I think this was a survival mechanism for the Great Generation. She was a war widow at 23.

lucychili said...

vivid memories, i can see your perspective impatient for armies and happy for stamps while the adult world marches to a different beat.sounds like a thoughtful doctor.

Anonymous said...

So interesting. At first I thought you might wake up in an oxygen tent! My father had polio as a child. You describe very well the thoughts of a child. k.

Andy Sewina said...

What a wonderful read! This takes me back to my first stay in hospital as a child to have my tonsils removed. I especially love the bits about the white bus with the red cross, and the emergency room cave.


Cloudia said...

That you have kept faith with that boy speaks to your access to the magical in the mundane that we see in all your work.

Sending YOU Aloha
from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >

kelvin s.m. said...

...i should know this Sir... i haven't stayed in a hospital for Christmas though but almost... it was back in sixth grade and few days before christmas when me & my youngest sister was sent to hospital from a car accident... it was all odd and white and my arms and legs were both dead... my beautiful young li'l sister still unconscious...and mom and dad and grandma and grandpa crying from different corners - i don't understand nor hear anything or feel something... but i could smell the syringe...the blood... the whiteness and dullness on that very room of silence... some angels are calling me in, sometime... but i don't listen... i wonder if i can ever write all of these if the car didn't hit breaks on time in Dec. of 2006... tnx sir for a wonderful read... smiles...

haricot said...

I remember your former poem about this subject, and this one is more imaginary as you mentioned and more powerful I think.

Dave King said...

I might have had a fever, though I don't have any reason to think so. I was five and believedd in magic - in my own way - and had a vivid imagination. Hence (according to my G.P., the nightmares).

Yes, it was magical, though it existed alonside reality (the soldiers that I had to get back for and the stamps I wanted to swap etc). It remained magical because it was the beginning of my memories.
Thank you for your kind words.

Yes, it did help cement the memory - and maybe misplace it, as most of my early war memories became associated with it. -- In fact, I am told I was discharged too early (hence my present problems) as they were trying to clear the wards in preparation for war.

Many thanks for this comment.

Yes, that more or less stacks up with my experience also - though I was older and there are a number of memories that now seem like a continuous memory, but I don't think could have been.

Sherry Blue Sky
Wow! What a compliment. Great thanks due here, I think!

Yes, it's odd, it's a memory of what I thought, more than what happened. The reality - or some of it - I can still recall and lay alongside the phantasy, but the memory of reality is much more sketchy.

The toy soldiers were my pride and joy - until my brother knocked all their heads off. dad and I spent hours replacing them with matchsticks. The soldiers these days are on video games, I think.

It's interesting to compare memory with family myth, I find. But where does one end and the other begin? Fascinating area, though.

Thanks for this. You sum it up brilliantly.

Strange: there was all this talk of special air, but I do not recall oxygen or masks. My wife had polio in her teens She speaks very passionately of her experiences. Thank you for the comment.

Hi. A warm welcome to you. Good to have your comment. Much thanks for.

Thanks for this -- a most charming comment!

That sounds like it would be a really wonderful write. You describe it so well in prose form, I do believe you are half way there! I would certainly love to read it.

Thank you for this. I am flattered that you recall the the earlier version. Your comment is most cheering and useful.