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Sunday, January 14, 2018

"Hospital", a poem by Charles Webb



The poem "Hospital" by Charles Webb is delirious magic, an enchanted gathering of roiling syllables and verbs and near  rhymes of a someone finding himself in a hospital when the drugs are wearing off. Or, perhaps, when the body is so wracked with pain and severe and flashing storms of associated agony that thinking  coherently is something mythical and out of  reach. This is a perfected bit of crafted babble, a three note mantra spoken and sung by someone doped up and being wheeled through institution corridors, from one room to the other, meeting employees in variations of the same work clothes running tests, taking samples, adjusting lights and dials on machines, writing items on clipboards and inputting data into computer stations, smiling, whistling pop tunes under their shallow breathing. The subject of the poem, the man being probed, interrogated, moved and otherwise made aware that something is wrong with him and he's not in control of this thinking, let alone his limbs, still attempts to put   everything in context, comparing odor to  odor, material things to other material things they don't resemble. This is not a coherent storyline, not a logical sequence,   it is, instead, a poetics of gathering your wits even as your best qualities of mind and  discernment slipped into the numbness pain killers provide.

Hot spittle, sizzling on pain’s grill. Hopsicle: bouncy, tooth-chilling, bad for you. Hopcycle: a gamboling bike. Opposite of hope’s fiddle. No “Soldier’s Joy.” No “Jolie Blonde.” Hive full of people in white coats (or green, or blue) commanding, “Swallow this,” inflicting tests that punish if you pass or fail—people hump- backed with sacks of doom they throw down on my bed, and bolt. Losspital: place where losers meet. Hospice: little. (How big do death-rooms have to be?) Hiss bottle, has pickle. Ass brittle—like the rest of me!
 “Have you ever,” a clipboard-man demands, “been hospitalized?” Been ossified? Alphabetized?
 Fossilized? Caramelized? I won’t leave here the same, or possibly, alive. Hot tickle. I’m not giggling. House pistol. If I get my hands on one . . . Horse drizzle, swizzle, sizzle—let me ride away!
 Some guy is fishing, on TV, for river-monsters toothier than tiger sharks. How can I rest with all these teeth gnawing at me? Cords yank out every time I turn. My monitor pings. “Sorry,” I tell the nurse who runs in. “Still not dead.” “That’s good,” she chirps, and jabs a needle into me. Hiss piddle. Hose poodle. Hat riddle: How’s a 10-gallon like a barbershop? Cop fizzle, sop griddle, lop pizzle, lot pedal, toss stipple. Glass house-pitiful you shouldn’t throw up in, stoned or not. Hostile

hostel, I won’t come back, I swear! Hose pustule, top tickle, Oz puddle. “Thank you,” I tell each doc,

meaning, “Fuck you for being well.”
Bop middle, slop griddle, rot victuals,
Hope’s diddle. The Grand Hotel


Oh-Well-To-Hell-With-Me.
You enter immortal, and exit disposable
as snot.
It is a delirium and the mind, of course, is not out to lunch but aware of and making note of everything that is going on--the curse of it all is that the mind cannot finish a sentence, complete a thought, find a frame or a metaphor to contextualize an experience that is sufficiently unreal and dreamlike. The mind, though, can sustain a rhyming, punning set of extrapolations on what the deeper mind registers and finds dreadful.
Charles Webb manages to maintain that balance between an indecipherable cleverness, nearly falling with great weight and speed into resolute incoherence, but this, as I take it, being the record of a drugged up mind or perhaps a mind suffering an organic derangement, this is the struggle to remain at or near the surface of consciousness.This made me think of those many times I had in the hospital while younger, about to go under the knife, after the needles and the ether had been applied--the world was recast as one fish eyed lens and the soundtrack was such that it reminded me of slowing down a turntable and then increasing the speed again quickly. “ Hospital “ as a swaying, visceral rhythm that is not always pleasant--panic, giddiness, elation, more panic follow one another quickly, seamlessly, without pause or explanation. This poem is an achievement, a successful evocation of sensory overload.

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