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Travels With John Hunter

Written by: Les Murray | Biography
 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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