Il Bambino Dormiente
Last Tuesday I nipped over to Venice for a day and a
I needed to see one particular painting in the
By Giovanni Bellini:
The Madonna Enthroned Adoring the Sleeping Child –
Il Bambino Dormiente.
Needed to? Yes – needed to.
On the spit of dissolution,
Estranged from my family,
I needed to see again
The most affectionate yet sacred family portrait ever
Cheap Aer Lingus flight to Marco Polo,
Bus into the bus station in the Piazzale Roma,
Water bus down the Grand Canal to the Gallerie
Half-price entrance fee for a European pensioner.
Not many visitors. In a vast stone hall
I linger alone before Bellini’s small picture
Of all that it means to be your mother’s son
In the mortal world, all that it means
To be a young mother doomed. I needed –
As we need to drink water to stave off death –
I needed to see myself as originally I was:
A naked male infant draped naked across my
Sleeping the sleep of death;
I needed to see her slightly prised-open eyes
At his sleeping visage, his tall, thin, grey, aged
Il Bambino Dormiente.
I needed to see again with my own eyes
Her apprehension of the inevitable;
To check again that she does indeed have red hair
Parted down the middle
In a white veil
Under the flat gold plate of her halo
And that her cheeks also are red –
Not with rouge –
But with all
That is most virginal, auroral,
Most purely West of Ireland peasant princess,
Her slender fingers craned tall in prayer.
I linger – I linger all day.
I stayed overnight in a nearby pensione
On the Rio di San Trovaso,
‘The Villa of Miracles’, which between the two
Was the Soviet Russian Embassy.
(The concierge archly confided in me:
‘We still receive the Russian clients.’)
In the middle of the night, after a catnap,
Having churned back up the waters of the Grand
To the bus station in the Piazzale Roma –
A young Chinese woman named Ya
From Yunnan Province studying in Manchester
Helping me find the bus to Treviso –
I got a Ryanair early flight back to Dublin
To settle my affairs and get ready for my own little
Meeting my mother in the big deep.
Meeting the Great Consultant
After having fasted from midnight, I get a taxi at noon, Driven by an easygoing, affable Wexfordman from the
He confesses that he finds modern hospitals ‘scary’ –
To the Hospital – Level 5, Day Care –
For what the Great Consultant’s secretary by phone
Has told me will be ‘a procedure’.
As with anything to do with Health, it’s a Stations of
The purpose of which is to cause the patient maximum
humiliation and stress.
Reception: a mean-looking, middle-aged lady with
dyed blonde hair;
Canine, snub-nosed, dismissive.
Onward to the ward: two young female nurses –
One human and warm and gay and bright and helpful;
The other brittle, curt, bent on making a nuisance of
Flings open cubicle curtains, instructs me
To get into a trolley bed.
Having undressed and wrapped up in a surgical
The usual, humdrum, pre-crucifixion scenario –
I sit there in bed for an hour and a half – waiting
Before being wheeled at speed down corridors
To the day-procedure operating theatre.
In position, I can see the Great Consultant –
His back. He does not deign to greet me
But in his blue scrubs stands with his back to me
At a counter, mugging up his notes,
Or, as he would pompously snigger, ‘consulting your
Finally, he spins around on his heel,
Vaunting a glimpse of boyhood’s homoerotic hips,
A young middle-aged, grey-haired, baby-faced gang
Who theatrically thinks of himself as the nurses
Think of him: as a God of the Hospital
(They refer to him never by name – only as HE).
Standing over me he gloats and glowers,
Informing me of the type of anaesthetic I’ll be injected
I ask him a question, but he ignores me – after all,
He is a consultant and consultants do not consult,
Certainly not with a patient.
And so I am injected and a masked nurse
Clamps my mouth, and the Great Consultant
Shoves a sewer rod down my throat
And fifteen minutes later I am trolleyed back to the
No, this tight-bottomed, pint-sized, Dublin suburbanite
With his Dublin 4 Great Medical Family pedigree –
His Rugby or his GAA field cred –
All-Ireland Championship medals or Irish caps –
Will not be doing any consulting with me today.
A boorish, contemptuous, conceited bully boy.
Three hours later, as I am departing Reception,
He passes me by, pretending not to recognise me.
But I put a spanner in his swagger and greet him and
To say ‘Ah, Mr Durcan!’ and I say to him:
‘Do you know what? You are a perfunctory little bugger,
But you have just done me for 600 euro – enjoy!’
1916 Not to Be Commemorated
The Irish government has announced that 1916
Is not to be commemorated in 2016.
On account of their 150 per cent rollback
Of the principles and ideals of the 1916 rebels,
The authorities wish to proclaim
That they do not cherish all the children of the nation
That the people have no right to the ownership of
That the people have no God-given right to freedom,
That the nutrition of good government is inhumanity
That the testosterone of proper administration is the
pylon and the wind turbine,
That the people have no right to speak
Other than in celebrity cliché, media jargon,
That all forms of humane speech are to be outlawed
In the light of the disgustingly visionary utterances
Of the poets Pearse, MacDonagh and Plunkett,
And the gay, casual words of the feckless MacBride,
That Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
Are prohibited substances in Ireland;
In 2016 anybody caught proclaiming 1916 values
Will be sentenced to solitary imprisonment for life
In a windowless room in a ghost estate.
The 2016 logo of Brand Ireland will be
In fake, high-end Celtic calligraphy:
Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government
THE OLD HAG OF BEARE
© Paul Durcan 2015
Extracted from The Days of Surprise
Published by Harvill Secker at £12