Sunday, August 10, 2008

Stone River Hospital

Occasionally I write poetry. There, I finally said it. Most of it is terribly personal, vulnerable and badly written. Over the last two months however I have occasionally written something that I feel comfortable about. Both the poems below are based on my experiences here and meticulously portray life as it really is.

A short note on the label of this blog post. 'Stone River Hospital' is a literal translation of Kal Aath Aspatre as we are locally known. Below is a photo of the river which runs about 200 feet away from my room. If someone had to literally translate what I am known as in the area it will be' Stony River Little Doctor' :-)

M's Betrayal

When the skin on the bottom of your feet
Burns. Burns really red hot.
It becomes hard and black. Like
Old cracked leather.
It makes a 'tok tok tok'
Noise like a coconut shell. Dry.

Inside creamy pus waits patiently.
The doctor will soon quit tapping
the skin with his pen.
He will mumble instructions in Tamil.
Nurses will scurry. The woman will
Starve to avoid vomiting with the anaesthesia.

In the evening Dhanam Akka will
Crack open a beautiful glass ampoule.
With the deftness of experience she will
Pull ketamine into a plastic syringe.
M lies on the steel operating table
Softly moaning under her green blindfold.

Soon cold steel clasped in latex
clad fingers will pare through
dead skin. Patient pus will burst
forth and dribble into a plastic
kidney shaped tray. Raw red
flesh will make a shy debut.
Akka, will you promise not to tell
Anyone. Promise on your heart.
Promise on your head. Promise. Promise.
I didn't fall into a cooking fire
because I fainted being two months pregnant.
I took some tablets because I didn't
Want a second child right now.
Ten pills from the local doctor. They
They knocked me out and then
Then my husband came home drunk.
Promise you won't tell anyone. Promise.
On your heart. Promise on your head.
He was in a murderous rage. He.
He tied me up and then he.
He stuffed a cloth in my mouth.

You might be tempted to ask why this has been the best year of my life. Here's why ....

A Rural Practitioner's Happiness

Tiny hands. Big eyes.
The cutest damn expression in the world.
That's my reward. That's happiness.

Then I walk out of the labour ward.
I can see hills all around. Green.
That's my reward. That's happiness.

My cottage sits on the edge of the forest.
Full of books, art films and insects.
That's my reward. That's happiness.

The local women who work at our hospital
Call me 'Anna'.
That's my reward. That's happiness.

An old therakoote vadiyar
Is grateful I was with him during his second MI.
That's my reward. That's happiness.

When death comes. Despair.
Loneliness and gastritis.
I think of my rewards. I try happiness.

Friday, August 01, 2008 posters

I had spent the whole of yesterday in the OP clinic seeing patients. Occasionally I would nip back to my room for a break and to read a little more of Helping Health Workers Learn, a book that is slowly revolutionising the way I understand community health. Inspiration struck at 1 am after reading the passage which I subsequently used in the first poster. The pictures are from my travels over the last year.

Click on the poster to enlarge.

The second poster is more personal. It was a sort of artistic representation of what being a community health activist at 1 am at night feels like. It uses a lots of ideas about art that I have been slowly developing such as where the artist situates himself, the progression of time between the pictures (look at the guava) and creating different messages depending on the distance between the viewer and the poster among others. I don't expect it to be popular or even be printed at all but it is my personal favourite. Poetry, art and community health :-)

Click on the poster to enlarge.