Public Hospital - Poem by Gieve Patel
How soon I've acquired it all!
It would seem an age of hesitant gestures
Awaited only this sententious month.
Autocratic poise comes natural now:
Voice sharp, glance impatient,
A busy man's look of harried preoccupation -
Not embarrassed to appear so.
My fingers deft to manoeuvre bodies,
Pull down clothing, strip the soul.
Give sorrow ear upto a point,
Then snub it shut.
Separate essential from suspect tales.
Weed out malingerers, accept
With patronage a steady stream
Of the underfed, pack flesh in them,
Then pack them away.
I tell myself,
I embrace the people:
Revel in variety of eye, colour, cheek, bone;
Unwelcome guest, I may visit bodies,
Touch close, cure, throw overboard
Necessities of distance, plunge,
With needle, knife, and tongue,
Wreck all my bonds in them.
At end of day,
From under the flagpole,
Watch the city streaming
By the side of my hands.
(From HOW DO YOU WITHSTAND, BODY published by Clearing House, Bombay, 1976)
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