THIS IS the title poem from my most recent poetry collection, published by Salmon last summer. It was inspired by my visits to the Infusion Unit at Merlin Park Hospital, where I am a regular.
There has been a lot of talk about those in isolation during the current lockdown experiencing “skin hunger”, a longing for any kind of human touch. I think people with serious illnesses often experience similar feelings; I certainly did in 2018, a year during which I lost two stone in weight and was quite ill most of the time.
Of course a longing for the things of the flesh can be problematic in a fifty plus year old male of the species. But dealing with such physical anomalies is, I think, on balance better than being dead.
Sex and Death at the Merlin Park Infusion Unit
after Saul Bellow
Blood pressure okay.
Temperature taken by a bit of plastic
she stuck in my ear,
the nurse straps a bag of magic
to my still relatively obliging vein.
Around me a room littered
with the even worse.
The mould of the grave
already about their faces.
Any month now they’ll be served
to the maggot nurturing earth.
The look of them makes me want
to throw my arms –
while they still have flesh– around
every cubic centimetre of my wife;
the nurse with her firm fingers and soft eyes;
her more sombre colleague
who asked me just then
how my water-works have been;
even the bus-driver
who brought me here;
and my next-door neighbour
who was putting his bins out
as I was leaving the house;
to make wild
love to the whole world.