Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tuesday Poem - In the Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre by Jennifer Compton

In the Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre

I hate it when they usher you straight through to the Room.
I’ve never been in the Room but I always knew I would hate it.

I hate the box of tissues waiting for your tears.
I have seen that box of tissues before.

I asked a security guard what the Room was called.
I felt such a need to write an accurate poem.

He told me it was called the Grievance Room.
I looked askance, although I had a grievance.

He offered me the use of their Spirituality Centre.
I declined. But made sure of their Smoke Zone.

A pagoda arrangement out by the helipad.
A birdbath filled with sand for centrepiece.

My daughter’s injury is not time critical.
She will arrive by chopper in an hour, or two.

It’s too early for the fighting drunks.
But the legless, weeping girls are arriving.

I hate the way I have to write this poem
to send it off into the future where

time doesn’t move by fits and starts as
my silly old heart thumps and leaps.

Into the future, all smoothed, (like this moment,
perhaps, like this dull, exquisite, ordinary moment.

And someone else is getting it in the neck.
Someone else is on fire as if they were alive.)

I hate the way my tragedy walks in through their doors
20, 30, 40 times a day.

I hate the way I strike up conversations with people
seeking comfort, like a needy needy needy person.

I hate these magazines. Famous faces who have
already split getting married on a beach, barefoot.

An ICU nurse on lunchbreak in the middle of the night
confesses it is called the Distressed Relative’s Room.

I have the name. (Of it.)
I am safe. (From it.)

If I was a much nicer person I would
go down to the Spirituality Centre.

There is a book and people write poems in it.
Messages, wishes. The things that they feel.

I hate the way it should console me
but I will start criticising, I know I will.

Picky picky picky. Bathos, slop and bilge, tripe.
Already I am planning to edit, tweak, spell check.

I read this older poem for the first time recently at the Collingwood Gallery and it went down quite well. People laughed, although I assured them it was not funny. It is in my book Barefoot published by Picaro Press.


  1. Your choice of capitalization infects the poem, I found - I would love to hear you read it and hear the inflection or emphasis over these words. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I like the way you have captured being in a place you don't want to be, having to wait, having to talk to strangers, having to deflect and reflect and not critique a message book... very evocative

  3. I just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas and let you know that I enjoyed your poem in this week's NZ Listener.