October Third, by Susan Millar Du Mars

ww1 hosp

(Introduction) One Saturday last October, my husband woke up feeling very ill.  He’d developed an infection.  His temperature was very high and he was vomiting and disoriented.  WestDoc told us to go to A&E, as Kevin would need antibiotics and fluids administered intravenously. 

We went to University Hospital Galway.

We spent three hours in waiting room chairs, and then Kevin was moved to a trolley.  For twenty four hours he stayed on this trolley, parked in a corridor of A&E alongside so many other trollies that orderlies with carts could not get through.  He spent his first night in hospital listening to drunk men fighting and singing in A&E.  Kevin was moved to a ward on his second day, but he remained on a trolley.  He was in hospital for four days and never got a bed.  As he had no cupboard for his things, we put them in plastic bags under his trolley.  For four days he could not lie flat, as if he did his feet would hang off the edge.  The hospital billed him at the full rate for this ‘service’.

Every doctor, nurse and orderly we met during Kevin’s hospital stay was kind and extraordinarily professional given the circumstances in which they were working.  We are very grateful to them.

The only other place I have seen such conditions is in films depicting field hospitals in World War I.

October Third

face of old paper

boiled eyes

watching things

I can’t see

mouth slack

arms open across

the backs of the molded

plastic chairs

he dozes

comments on the rugby


I’m fine

until I have to leave without him

surrender him to a process

of liquids measured

going in

coming out

things under the tongue

under the skin

hall with a halo

of heat, piss, sick

his foot pokes

over the end

of the trolley

his ankle white as a turnip

pried from nurturing dirt

I’m fine

till I get to the carpark

(Bio) Susan Millar DuMars has published three collections with Salmon Poetry, the most recent of which, The God Thing, appeared in March, 2013.  Bone Fire will be published by Salmon in Spring, 2016.  Susan lives in Galway, where she and her husband Kevin Higgins have coordinated the Over the Edge readings series since 2003.  She is the editor of the 2013 anthology Over the Edge: The First Ten Years.