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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing September 2023
Passing Go, poems by Kate Maxwell.
Car chase in New York with the artist formerly known as prince,
his spouse, and splatter of paparazzi, but some claim this was less
pursuit, just more fizz and fluster from a blood-line royal in mid-
transition to Netflix celebrity, embracing new world consciousness
and new world dollars. The comment thread’s aflame with curled
lip of daily scorn and the darker shades of loathing, dredged up from
irritable bowels of those crawling bitter spitters. Still, more photos
of that other orange man—his caked-on frowns and smirks ingrained
in culture now more akin to bacteria growth than customs and beliefs—
prompting me to press palms into eyes and scream. I could shut down,
pop a pill, pop a tart, pop a shot above the superior orbital rim to feign
insouciance for years and years of unmet yearning. Or maybe, I need to
bring it on, bring my best game, even if it’s my worst. As long as it is
loud, proud, and loaded and I remember what part that I wanted to play,
which token I chose to mark my position. But I can always change my
mind, swap from cat to thimble, iron to boot. It’s where you are and where
you’re going that really gives you skin. There’s no bling if you don’t pass
Go. Pity, I’m so wrapped up in the colour and confetti that I forgot to move.
Today’s another visiting day but age, balance, and cold bathroom
tiles have set my course to hospital instead of the nursing home.
Your obstinate old hips refuse belief in bone mass decline—remember
only simpler years of easy twists and bends so, now we’re always
mending cracks. The ward is full: partitioned into concertina cells
of half-hidden legs, beep of machines, voices, or a sudden scream
but the bed beside yours is as open as its patient’s face—Don’t mind
me, Luv, she sucks teeth, shifts her ample floral nightie form and reaches
for a biscuit on the tray table, I’ve just been keeping your lovely mum
company. You fix eyes, like lasers, onto mine, burning their unspoken plea
to get me out of here! I answer with same hazel stare, I wish I could.
Oh, how I wish I could. Instead, I offer smiling platitudes to your neighbour
as she starts her story of why she’s lying next to you. I’m only here because
of Trixie, you know. When those ambulance folk got inside, I was howling,
fit to burst, for them to find my Trixie. So much pain, Luv, but all I cared
about was that I might have fallen on my little Trixie! —Yes, Trixie would
not have stood a chance, I ascertain— then murmur something sympathetic
as I escape to your allotted side of purgatory and pull the screen across.
But she hasn’t finished yet. It was the middle of the night, you know. I was just
getting up for the toilet and Trixie mustn’t have been able to hold on, herself.
Then what do you know? I slipped in a puddle of poodle piss! I take your thin-
skinned hand but now you’re too distressed; rolling eyes, at your bedside
buddy’s clearly oft-repeated monologue, and I think to make a whisper light
quip about poor Trixie but decide you’re well past the point of wry or stoic.
The woman offers more invisible commentary on the hospital’s poor selection
of digestives, how she prefers assorted cremes instead, and how her niece
is likely neglecting Trixie while she’s stuck in this dam place. Pale and pained,
corralled by clatter and chatter, I see you’ll have no rest. I sigh and summon
walls, beds, and bodies to crumble into rocks and dust like some big budget
movie scene where only you and I remain, and none shall pass. There, secure
on precipice of laundered linen, sweet air and solitude, I could serve you peace
or offer waters from the holy lake. This, I’d gladly give rather than the limp
carnations and lemon drops, untouched on the bedside cabinet. And I will visit
again tomorrow then later, back at the nursing home—cocooned in pastel blankets,
thoughts, walls and medically balanced processed care—and wonder what you
would trade for a mountain top of fresh air, sunshine, and your independence.
© Kate Maxwell
Kate Maxwell grew up in the Australian bush. Now a city dweller, her interests include film, wine, and sleeping. Her work has been published and awarded in many Australian and International literary magazines such as Cordite, StylusLit, Meniscus, Books Ireland, Skylight 47, ROPES, and The Galway Review. Kate’s published two anthologies: Never Good at Maths (Interactive Publications, 2021) and Down the Rabbit Hole (Ginninderra, 2023). Find her at https://kateswritingplace.com/