From Salamanca by Vivienne Plumb


My son doesn't go to school
any more he goes somewhere
else. He goes out walking alone
with his hat on his head,
lies on a bed, where they slip
a drip to the vein and
he has his body pumped full.
Funny how they grow up
says the woman who is the chemist,
Is it your only one?
It's harder then, because you've spoilt them
here's your prescription, forty nine dollars.

I try to pretend
she doesn't know a thing, a thing that she's saying.
Here's a red light outside
and I have to stop, and everywhere there's children
a reminder of the way we come
into the world: birth, growth,
and end up fat or thin.
He, my own, was thin before
the drugs set in and made him fat,
now he looks like a frog.
There's a dog on the way home
so I pat it, sign of the hope
I have for the future.
When I get in he's on the bed
I can tell he feels bad, don't
he says. He often says that.
Or come here and he holds my
hand and there we are, two
tiny pebbles perched on the edge,
with the silvery sand far below us.
We don't like to use the C-word
says one white coat.
They prefer the ambiguous
nodes to tumours, or even
bumps and lumps, if you were dumb
you might think you had mumps.
In ward one he starts to tell me
his dream: we are chased
by a giant goldfish, we reach
a cellar, we are trapped
by the goggle eyed fish in a dead
sea end, and then suddenly
he is all alone with an enormous
tome on his lap, the words medical
are embossed on its cover,
and he opens it, and he begins to read.


I'd never dreamt she'd use a saw.
Had imagined it would be
big scissors
or something else
only fifty percent frightening.
But straight away,
quick as a wink, as nursies say,
she pulled out the saw
and started
on my leg.

The plaster split.
Inside, cocooned,
my leg
a bone
from a horror camp.
A shank you could throw in soup,
no other way
to simmer off the flesh from it.

On the radio (they say)
a man threw boiling water
on his baby's legs.
They had to amputate,
my hands fly to my ears,
my heart's in my mouth.

Walking home
I see skin
caught halfway on the wire fence:
whole, fresh, puckered,
body of an escapee
under the low grey sky.
Skin of an orange.

©Vivienne Plumb