I am sitting in the café in Wellington Hospital’s atrium. From my table I can see an inner courtyard of tables and chairs and a sculpture of arches and lintel. The sculpture is actually a section of the old hospital entranceway, a familiar sight from when I was admitted as a child. But I am not a child. In this frame I am a poet, the writer of My Wide White Bed, a book of poems about being in hospital. Today I am here to talk to a staff member about the possibility of framing some of them for display in hospital corridors. Poems that will ring a little bell for today’s inpatients: We have a voice; you are seen. That’s what they’ll trill. Well, that’s the hope.
After the café meeting, I head to my orthopaedic outpatient’s appointment. In this frame I am a patient. I answer the prioritisation form, trying to make my life fit onto a sliding scale. All I want is a referral to Orthotics, who have made my shoes for the past twenty-five years.
The registrar comes in, offers a smile and handshake. He examines my hands, says good tendons, fingers not crooked. Surgeries? Hips, four, I say, two revisions. He moves to my feet. Flat feet, he says, stiff. What about pain? Difficult to get around? I’ve adapted, I say, it’s different for someone whose life has been upended recently or for whom it keeps changing. I’ve had this for fifty-two years. I know how to do it.
Afterwards I think, why did I go on about coping? A friend says, he was looking at you through one frame and you were trying to get him to look through another.