Untitled by Elaine Feeney

There’s nothing holy about dying in a hospital ward. There’s nothing at all about it. It’s a pathetic way to die. There’s no worship or heroics in it.

In between a dim light and fifty-gram bleached bed sheets, I lie my body down. My mother says my name over and over and over again, in a sort of blind panic.

I think they should leave the windows open to let all the infection out. Later they tell me there were no windows. But in my splutterings and whisperings I think that it is only humane to open the window.

My father always told me I was fine. I looked fine, I sounded fine, I was fine. I should get up off the ground. Wasn’t I fine.

The dead don’t bother me. I swerve to avoid the living . But the living dead make me sick. dying in their hospital beds, with tubes and drips and bits of them everywhere. I hate the living dead. They are nowhere.

Maybe you might help with the herding, and sure it’ll take that sick pasty look of your face, is that infection back again, you’re a lot weaker than your mother, Jesus Christ above I don’t know where we got you from. If you rubbed a bit of rouge onto your sour dough puss, you’d look a bit better. You should try fight it, with your fists, fight it, you’ve no fight. With your puss all pasty like a weak auld pucan.

I herd the animals in my mind, just like when my second son was crowning and he tore my muscles wide open.

Schuch schuch schuch, over and over and over again.

And I clicked soft tongue to the back edge of my hard palate, something mute and froathy to the click -drum rhythm of oxygen.

Like a madwoman.

I count every bit of animal in my care, from their stumbly legs, up through their shiny rumps and over the roan arches of their backs.

Wool, leather and dusty mare-hair.

We’ve given her magnesium, steroids, steroids, some adrenaline or Epinephrine, more Midazalam, Atropine. Jesus more fluids maybe. Jesus, what the fuck has happened?

Who is looking after her? Charge.

Why did she let herself get into this state, it’s the twenty-first century.


I think she’s gone. Is she gone? She’s gone.

You’re not sick at all, it’s all those vitamins your mother is giving you, drink up a bit of tea and put on a coat and come out, I’ve a horse for you to ride and sure then we can have another mug of tea. Your mother will ready us something.

I can’t move my legs, I can’t feel them. I’ve now I’ve pissed myself again. And I haven’t waxed.

You’re going to have another seizure, go with it, you have a strong heart.

Is that her husband? Jesus get him out. Get him to leave, somebody take him out.

I scream in my head, I don’t take drugs, tell them I don’t fucking take drugs. Why won’t he leave?

I grab someone’s tie tight with my fist and my slaughterhouse eyes scream at him as he shoves something down my throat. I mangle the yellow tie around his neck hard and his hands are shaking. I think i could kill him. He’s lovely. I decide he’s lovely, and his aftershave is lovely. I lick his neck, I can get some air there.

Later that night or the next night or the night after that, I’m not sure, I ask my husband to read me a poem as I die.

I don’t want them to come back around me like clocking hens, with their yellow ties. Hurting me. Hurting us. Squeezing the juice from my wrists. Read me anything, out loud, but I’ve only Bukowski and Heaney and I’m not sure I want to die to the sound of either of them.

But they can be saying goodbye.

I want to hear the lines from that poem , I tell him; “you’re dead, do you hear me you’re dead, you’re dead do you hear me” or something like that, something fucking angry, or it’ll be a blood sacrifice for nothing. But I’m only fighting myself again, every inch of me, and my husband thinks it’s too angry a poem to die to.

And I respect him. Only him, he has a quiet way to silence me with his love. Every inch of the fear on his face is like a dirty winter’s hang-over in March. And I love him. And he loves me, and that is all, but I’m angry.

I think it would keep me alive, I tell him, that kind of fight, I’d stay alive just to spite the fuckers. To spite who? He asks me again, lying on the very edge my bed. To spite the fuckers, I’ll stay alive to spite the fuckers.

I decide on Heaney, Bukowki’s too scary for any end.

My last breaths will be nothing. Nothing, I’m not a tragedy, I’m not young or innocent, I will find my way through any world I arrive at, I will bring my jarred-angry self to the table of dead souls and I will annoy them. Or best of all I’ll just be dead. And I’ll have no soul. That’s what I’m wishing, but I hardly ever wish at all. I never see the point.

I am not afraid of dying. Who the fuck am I to be afraid of dying with the daily seas of infant blood….with their small-angry-pain-fears.

There are far worse things than death.

I am selfish and ready, and tired, and like all the child-games of hide-and-seek, I couldn’t sit still for, I will jump out at the last minute, before you’re supposed to, because the waiting is the worst. Sitting and waiting.

I will jump out before the end, because I’d rather take it and have it come at me hot and angry, ready, rather than whisper around, as the suspense turns icy-cold and be fucking afraid.

I couldn’t bear suspense.

Is there anything you want to say to these people, any messages? Yeah say go fuck yourselves, that is all.
Those I love, know my love.

I looked at Bukowski’s marled face. Angry bastard. It was all they had gathered off the lumpy kitchen table. I had a fuchsia hoody. My red converse stuck out from beside the bed, ready to be walked. A plastic pen.

Two books. Heavy night cream. Vaseline. Roget and Gallio soap. Flowery, floral. Two Mother’s Day cards. Masks. Tubes.

I’m so sorry I said, over and over again. I’m sorry, I said, I said sorry. The wind took it. The tea lady caught it. Sorry I said, and I took it to the stars over Newcastle and to the doughy soft breasts opened out in front of me, sorry I said to the children that had come from me, I whispered it to the moon and to the concrete wall, to the plastic oxygen balloon, to my mother, sorry I said and the narrow grass-blades at the hospital entrance grabbed it, sorry I said to my hate, sorry I said to the dark slitty eyes of Heaney, watching me.

Late spring red flowers grow from the grass blades, and I will not be afraid.

Yet there are no words for the dying. 
Limp and flat, no god touch or water drop in sight just read to me;
“‘show me,’ I said to our companion, ‘what I have much coveted, your breast’s mauve star.’ And she consented. Oh neither these verses Nor my prudence, love, can heal your wounded stare.’ (A Dream of Jealousy- Heaney)

Days later a young doctor, with fusilli curls and a purple face, sits on the bed. The imprint of my husband is proving. He asks of my terror, and tells me of his fright. Then speaks of his mother.

Thumbing Heaney, he says, sure you never know, you might take to writing a poem or two yourself after this last week,

Maybe, I said.

Elaine Feeney