Young poet

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
Waiting Was Invented in Hell

(Hope and Trust)

Waiting was invented in hell

as your life tick tocks

before eyes that wait.

Troubled thoughts are put to rest

with a dark mask

and metallic blades,

sharp flesh piercing contraptions

find you,

haunt you in your nightmares.

The little green man watches over,

he has your life in his hands.

On this cold un-forgiving bed

with monsters of machines

strapped onto you,

miracles are in the making.

There's a nightmarish quality to this poem which places the reader somewhere between the world of dreams and waking. What seems a vision of hellish machination is, in fact, a narrative poem about a surgical procedure.

The poem proceeds and is sustained through images of alienation and persecution - "waiting eyes", the "dark mask", the "flesh piercing contraptions" and a "little green man" who could have been beamed down from Mars. There's a feeling of helplessness, a relinquishment of control.

I admired the economy of diction, the way the poet finds phrases which are both descriptive of a process and disturbingly ambiguous in the emtional sense: "Troubled thoughts are put to restwith a dark mask". The patient's disquiet is quenched but that of the reader intensified.

The image of the gowned anaesthetist is part goblin, part "green man" of mythic life-giving legend. The "monsters" of the machines recall Frankenstein's creation as the patient falls under the surgeon's blade and the ending seems all the more surprising and brave for its tenuous faith.

graham mort Dale Sullivan receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Brian Patten (Faber). His poem was submitted by Cliff Yates. Graham Mort, a freelance writer and tutor, is TES guest poet for this term. His latest collection, Circular Breathing (Dangaroo Press), is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to Friday magazine, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Include the poet's name, age and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or email: The TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99

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