• Hopdance


- 1 -
I. One day they said, It's time you went to the gymnasium, Mr. Tosh
said so you go there,
And whistling even, a shanty of sorts. Trying to fancy yourself aboard
ship along these long corridors with the curvy low ceilings, a male nurse
in his white smock smiling past like a cabin steward. Polished floor, the
right crutch sliding a little. Easy, On a real ship, on these things, with
one bound you’d be on your arse. All at sea. There now, wordplay even. Of a
sort, The boy is back in his mind again.

Tunnelling left, that must be the place, swing doors with portholes.
Eases his right shoulder between the doors, bundling through in an awkward
scuffle, the hospital gymnasium. Bars, ropes, curious engines. Nobody here
yet. Heeling round to starboard...

a spectral stranger in the corner lurking there eyeing you out of a
ragged thicket of dirty fair hair, lank blue jumper hanging limp on the bony
shoulders, metal crutches clamping the forearms, fixing you with that
glittering eye, transfixed, don’t look down... gross blue knot dangling in the
vacant space where the left leg should be, pyjama knot, dangling from the
blunt stump fat with its bandages, the one fat thing, gorged full on its
own blood. First sight of it. First mirror.

Easy. As others see me, Scary ghost, Sad freak. No wonder they tried
to make you wear their long tartan dressing gown, get a haircut, stay in
the ward, spare the feelings of the healthy, no wonder, horrified eyes
sliding sideways as they pass me in the corridor.

Motionless, holding the stare. For the slightest move, confirmed by the
mirror, will force him at length to identify with that halt scarecrow which
now at last stands there revealed to him after the months of living wholly
inside that stricken mask. Caught.


Stewart Parker
Stranger, Mirror
Linen Hall Library, "Parker003", Northern Ireland Literary Archive, accessed Sun, 07/14/2024 - 14:03, https://www.niliteraryarchive.com/content/parker003