Sue Wilson (2013)

[Oakley Hospital]

Childhood Lost:
Poem no. iv

Oakley Hospital
I had heard such terrible things
admission meant a bath by
brisk bulky nurses
scrubbing at my pain with actual brushes
trying to wash me away
tied up in bundle
in a white gown
thrown onto a bed like a
sack of spuds
how much will you give me for this sack of spuds
come on somebody make me an offer

The screaming bounced from wall to wall
as if they were playing catch
catch with their demons
no I don't want it
nor do I
the screaming continued both night and day

The room was cavernous
with floor to ceiling windows
a women's dormitory
with eyes gazing from every bed

You must be Alice
their eyes haunted me
twelve beds facing twelve beds
old and wrinkled faces
with childlike ribbons in their hair
lunatic smiles
endless laughter
and me
the only child
amongst these Queens of Diamonds
shine diamonds shine
but their shine had long been drugged out of them

I remember little I remained mute
I had no training for this
the queen in the bed next to the nurse
disturbed and dramatic
ran round and round
in and out of the toilet
mouth filled with tampons and water
a manifestation of distress not suicide
with all that glass in the windows
death could have been a doddle
the comfort of madness stirred all around me
they wanted to stroke me
a toy somewhere between a pet and a doll
someone was screaming like a wild thing
and thrown in a padded cell
for disturbing the Queens' quiet madness

It seemed like forever I lay in that room
banging my head against the walls
feeling nothing was abominable
seeing just white was worse
needing something sharp I needed to feel
however this rabbit hole had no exit
and here I had to stay

[Children in a Waiting Room (Ramadi, 2009)]

Childhood Lost:
Poem no. vii

I helped out in the psychopedic ward
where children less than perfect
were placed at birth
the older mongoloids frightened me
the littlest was a favourite
in a rickety pushchair
I walked him to the only shop
for miles around
chocolate for the nameless one
nothing for me
he slurped at his chocolate
and grinned from ear to ear
back in the ward
I washed him
changed him
and put down him in his cot to sleep
happy little man

my other treasure was Stephen
age seven
chattered away
talked about cowboys and things
things that his mother knew nothing about
doctors thought it better that way
he suffered from Spina Bifida
hydrocephalic as hell
his giant head was supported
by his tiny hands
in turn supported by elbows
on a large cushion
he assumed this position for much of the day
I liked him and told him funny stories
he laughed till his huge head ached
so I kissed him and left him to rest
with my hand on his head
I remember saying these words
when I grow up I want a little boy just like you

- Sue Wilson

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