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Travels With John Hunter Analysis

Author: poem of Les Murray Type: poem Views: 2

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We who travel between worlds

lose our muscle and bone.

I was wheeling a barrow of earth

when agony bayoneted me.

I could not sit, or lie down,

or stand, in Casualty.

Stomach-calming clay caked my lips,

I turned yellow as the moon

and slid inside a CAT-scan wheel

in a hospital where I met no one

so much was my liver now my dire

preoccupation. I was sped down a road.

of treetops and fishing-rod lightpoles

towards the three persons of God

and the three persons of John Hunter

Hospital. Who said We might lose this one.

Twenty days or to the heat-death

of the Universe have the same duration:

vaguely half a hour. I awoke

giggling over a joke

about Paul Kruger in Johannesburg

and missed the white court stockings

I half remembered from my prone

still voyage beyond flesh and bone.

I asked my friend who got new lungs

How long were you crazy, coming back?

Five days, he said. Violent and mad.

Fictive Afrikaner police were at him,

not unworldly Oom Paul Kruger.

Valerie, who had sat the twenty days

beside me, now gently told me tales

of my time-warp. The operative canyon

stretched, stapled, with dry roseate walls

down my belly. Seaweed gel

plugged views of my pluck and offal.

The only poet whose liver

damage hadn't been self-inflicted,

grinned my agent. A momentarily

holed bowel had released flora

who live in us and will eat us

when we stop feeding them the earth.

I had, it did seem, rehearsed

the private office of the grave,

ceased excreting, made corpse gases

all while liana'd in tubes

and overseen by cockpit instruments

that beeped or struck up Beethoven's

Fifth at behests of fluid.

I also hear when I lay lipless

and far away I was anointed

first by a mild metaphoric church

then by the Church of no metaphors.

Now I said, signing a Dutch contract

in a hand I couldn't recognise,

let's go and eat Chinese soup

and drive to Lake Macquarie. Was I

not renewed as we are in Heaven?

In fact I could hardly endure

Earth gravity, and stayed weak and cranky

till the soup came, squid and vegetables,

pure Yang. And was sane thereafter.

It seemed I'd also travelled

in a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards,

of flowers and phone calls and letters,

concern I'd never dreamed was there

when black kelp boiled in my head.

I'd awoken amid my State funeral,

nevermore to eat my liver

or feed it to the Black Dog, depression

which the three Johns Hunter seem

to have killed with their scalpels:

it hasn't found its way home,

where I now dodder and mend

in thanks for devotion, for the ambulance

this time, for the hospital fork lift,

for pethidine, and this face of deity:

not the foreknowledge of death

but the project of seeing conscious life

rescued from death defines and will

atone for the human.


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