Kate Camp


Demolition of the hospital

When you knock out the inside of a building
you find the world behind.
It has always been there, that pale yellow sky
the dark animal of the hill.

The Children’s Ward was down the road
when I was growing up.
Outside the window was a big pohutukawa
and after different surgeries I received for my pains:

a new kind of juice containing lime, a packet of gingernuts,
a stuffed toy dog as big as myself, and a pop up book of the Beatles.
When you opened the last page they stood on the roof
and a tiny speaker played Let It Be.

Like a little sovereign I took visits at the bedside
and when my mother would not bring me water
said imperiously
Get Me A Nurse.

Have you ever been blind?
A hairbrushing accident in the early nineties
infected my left eyeball
rendering movement of either eyelid agonising.

I remembered Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan,
her eyes began to feel full of sand
and she was taken to a special home in the Black Maria.
My sister Mary took me to hospital in her Mazda.

She kept a running commentary
here are the steps you are stepping up one now.
In the waiting room an awful man sat next to us
and held my hand. He talked about Jesus.

Finally they took us in.
As the doctor’s hands came towards me
my arms sprang up
strong and idiotic as a robot.

Two days later I could see again. It was Easter.
The flat was a complete disaster.
All around was ash from mis-cued cigarettes
and tissues, wept on once then dropped unseen.

There will always be a sticky spot on that eyeball.
If I wake in a hurry a single cell will lift off.
It feels like a grain that can not be rubbed out
only rubbed in.

In half an hour the cell has been replaced, the eye is perfect
and now I know I lie unpanicked in the dawn
weeping only a few warm tears
waiting for that little world I know is coming right.



Kate Camp is the author of two collections of poetry from Victoria University Press: Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars (1998) and Realia (2001). ‘Demolition of the Hospital’ is from her new collection Beauty Sleep to be published this year. Kate is also an editor and essayist, and the voice of Kate’s Klassics, discussions on classic literature on New Zealand’s National Radio.