new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
P e t e r   O l d s

Uncovering the Hospital


Coming from across the road
the sounds of a work-gang kicking a ball
& laughing in their lunch-hour.

They’re uncovering the hospital
preparing for weekend fungalists
& cuckoo watchers.

They’re digging grass out of drains
planting flax in the enclosures
marigolds round the gate –
the gate with the cattle-stop.


At cow gully swamp
buried under straw & blackcurrant
the remains of the old mental hospital –

you can’t get away from it!

Galvanized steel
heavy netting
ventilation shoot
electric wire
electric bed!
fennel in bottomless chamber pot –

every piece of waxed floor
accounted for.

Black & white cows
stumble dopily
through ragwort…

I attract little attention
as I carefully dig out
selected bricks
from the mortar & clay crumbling bank
to use to build a fireplace
in the hut.


A spider crawls out of the end of a piece
of blazing wood & drops on its thread
to ash & pineneedles at the fire’s hearth.

Unless something intervenes it is unlikely
to survive as the place it now finds itself
is almost as hot
as the place it evacuated…


For tea tonight I think I’ll have
stuffed marrow
baked over a pinecone fire
in the new fireplace made with bricks
from cow gully swamp –

washed down
with ragwort wine.

MT, EOSAW, 2001]


© Peter Olds 2004











Last updated 11 July, 2004