Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mary Coleman


Though names are confidential
I shall know you always as Rosie,
The girl who tore out her eyes.
Or did they just fall out,
as you said they did?
The nurse found you seated on the bed,
still as the summer afternoon.
You sat there, enjoying the sun,
Holding in each palm the gift of sight.

The Last Days of Ward 81

The wall paint is a dry riverbed of cracks.
Grated windows filter sunlight through thirty years of grime.
The afternoon concentrates its rays on a scattered deck of cards.
Paper kings and queens are fused to the crumbling tiles,
A waterlogged collage of royalty stained by years of animal shit.
In the bathroom sink sits a flowerpot.
Broken stems and shrunken leaves litter the dry, loose soil.
The festive wrapping has turned gray and brittle.
Here color seeps away with the years, faded by the moldering walls,
Washed by the Oregon rain,
Covered by roosting birds, and nesting rodents.
And spectral patients, too, cast a formless shadow across the dayroom.
Their names are written almost illegibly above a row of toothbrushes.
Dixie, Grace, Mary, Henrietta, Ann, Gloria…
Though some were discharged, only bodies left the building.
Memory still hangs in the damp air,
An icy presence that buttons sweaters and coats,
And keeps the doors sealed shut.
Outside the windows, drizzle lightly coats tendrils of ivy.
They wind around the pipes and find fissures between bricks,
Poking through the occasional broken pane.
Indoors, the remaining occupants are undisturbed in their decay.
A rusted bathtub with a melted bar of soap and a disintegrating sponge,
The flowerpot in the sink, a soiled blanket strewn on the floor,
Two bottles of shampoo, an empty bank bag,
A gurney with thick straps resting on the metal surface.
The nurse’s telephone with a red light on one side,
Phantom toothbrush owners and card players,
All awaiting scheduled demolition,
The silent countdown broken only by the flapping of a waking owl,
And the hurried rustle of a frightened rat.

Mary Coleman is an American born artist living in New Zealand. She recently finished her BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland.

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