A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2009, vol 5 no 3

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Ken Jones


Dying in Luxury

Waiting to be ticked
that last little box

On all the doors the pattern of veneer is identical. The décor is in an analgesic pastel shade. On my wall is the badly painted picture of an old wheelbarrow, from which droop gaily painted flowers. Had they known what might happen, they would have decorated the passenger saloons of the “Titanic” thus.

Through each half-open door
the stillness of a life

For those of us who are up to it, the event of the day is the morning passaggiata, back and forth along the thickly carpeted corridor. Everybody has tried to make the best of themselves. “Must keep up standards, you know”.

Urine cathetered
her Gucci handbag
a rich sauterne

With a debonair twist of my own piss bag I offer her a flirty smile. And here’s a patrician gent, with his shock of white hair, well cut dressing gown and creased pyjama bottoms.

Lord of the Universe
with each faltering step
his firmly planted Zimmer frame

Shortly after I arrive my surgeon, Dr Pangloss, invites me to accompany him on a voyage round my urinary system. A couple of specialist nurses join us for the trip – they have already seen countless dicks, all hors de combat. With the aid of a minute telescopic television camera we cruise up my urethra, caught on the big screen with Pangloss’s running commentary. The stalactites are impressive. Getting past the prostate proves to be a tight squeeze. The nurses stifle a giggle. “Partial demolition tomorrow," promises the surgeon. Then we’re out into the roomy cavern of my bladder. The walls are a not unpleasing red, apparently the result of a radiotherapy blowlamp job several years ago.

Mortal inside
my own insides
so this is what I am?

Later, I comment to the Ward Sister on the cheerful eccentricities of the nursing staff – and, indeed, everyone else. She attributes this to the generous staffing policy, from consultants to cleaners. “Here, in the private sector, we each have enough time to go mad in our own individual ways, whereas in the NHS everyone grows mad in much the same way. So, put on that risqué bare backed gown, my dear, and we’ll whisk you off now to the live theatah.” Here I get into an argument with the anaesthetist about the Latin tag Et in Arcadia ego. Knowing that, given a couple of minutes, he’s bound to get in the last word. Which he does. Et in Arcadia ego

Strictly come dancing
the Reaper and I
take a tentative turn

“Et in Arcadia ego. ” Loosely translatable as “Death dwells even in Arcadia” –- even in the blissful unconsciousness of anaesthesia. Hence a timely warning to the anaesthetist, and the “tentative turn”.

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