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Groote Schuur Hospital

Shelley Barry

Another day
Nurses wash me at 5am,
Tired, as night duty reaches
They talk. Laugh. Avoid my dead
Some say I'm pretty
Say it's a pity

Clean now

Shapeless blue gown
2 more hours before breakfast
Light shines on bedsheets
Cape Provincial Administration
Sheets, pillows, smells

They turn me

1, 2, 3
over to face the mountain
Animals have arrived
all day they will graze
or just stand staring
like yesterday and the day before
I have learned just to stare
Like them


My mother is here
Running out of ways to make me smile
Can't I crawl back inside her womb
I ask. Never know this life?


Afternoon cartoons.
I look, see nothing, but the mountain
The day is clear
Birds flap by
It is summer
Life screeches outside


I leave the boxed room
I am spirit, grazing with the mountain herd
The mountain welcomes, protects.

More visitors

How am I feeling?
Am I in pain?
So-and-so sends their regards
And Jesus loves me

Lights fade

Mountain pulls on her blanket
Of night
Animals move off the slope
Out of sight
Where do they go?
I don't know.

I'll be here

Waiting for them
Tomorrow and the day after
Wishing I had a secret place to go
Wrapped in mountain
But where do I go?

Where can I go?

In this zoo,
With long night haunting
No view.


Disabled in the Taxi Wars in 1996, Shelley Barry became active in disability politics and coordinated national policy for Disabled People, South Africa, in Parliament for two years. Barry is a member of New Moon Ventures, a women's theater collective and is currently working on a play Spinning Wheels.