Mid-December through hospital windows
low noon light prickles where frost’s clung
to woods butting the road behind Urology.
What I saw in this view,
in the off-white, sterile distance
those years I worked here, I don’t know.
We all looked out to the trees for something
as we counted heartbeats and breaths –
for some, the promise of uncertain weather,
a sudden ice in the air, a plush of rainfall
But a nurse who walked
away from the ward was only evoked
in hushed tones, storeroom door pulled-to
as though we were naming our dead.
Did they talk about me
the months after I left? No longer in uniform,
sitting in my bed, oxygen mask like a charm
strung from my neck, I miss the musk and pelt
of the undergrowth, the coarse winter wind
scouring my lungs.
She asks and I tell her, Sister,
wintering out there I’m no less a nurse
than walking the ward, gloves on, pocketful
of stethoscope. She wears her navy blue
like a cat wears fur, her nurse-ness warm
in its seams, sung in the rustle of polyester.
I carry the drip rate equation in my mouth
and the names of major veins flit the tips
of my thumbs like waxwings on a holly bush.
She turns my hands over in hers, a flutter
of scrubbed red – with her first two fingers
resting on my wrist, she asks again.
Tonight when they flick out the lights,
the dark of the ward makes the woods bright,
an icy mirror reflecting back
my face in the branches.
And in the wooze of post-anaesthesia
I can’t tell whether I’m here or out there
letting my skin numb in the snow –
under the long frayed shadows of oaks
and drip-stands, I dream
I’m walking from bay to bay, measuring
pain, changing sheets, looking to the trees
as patients turn in their sleep.
From Angelina D’Roza’s forthcoming debut collection Envies the Birds (published by Longbarrow Press in spring 2016). Listen to Angelina D’Roza reading this poem: