Sick Bay | Gareth Culshaw

(Based on the short story, Gusev, by Anton Chekhov)

Gusev lies in the sick bay. The ship breaks up
waves that are in search of beaches. The iron
groans from squeezing between currents.

Illnesses feed off his body then wait to jump
into another. His eyes scratch away the morning
as he wakes. He tries to yawn but his jaw

is a rusty hinge on a cemetery gate.
The boat goes up and down kneading the sea.
Gusev thinks of home. His family and friends talk,

he replies with unhinged words. Slobber slugs
down the side of his mouth. The ship calms down
happy at last to be on the sea. A porthole is open

allows a breeze to escape the outside. The heat crushes
the skin of the ill. Gusev grabs his knees, so they
don’t spring his body into the sea. Gusev asks

a soldier to take him up top deck. They look into nothing.
The waves try to outdo each other, manure and hay fills
Gusev’s nostrils.

‘There’s nothing to be frightened of. It’s just scary,
like being stuck in a dark forest.’ says Gusev.

Three days later Gusev dies. They sew him up
in sailcloth, fill it with iron and place him on a plank.
The priest speaks then the board is tilted.


Gareth lives in Wales. His first collection, The Miner is available from Futurecycle. His second is due in 2020. His main critics are his dogs, Jasper & Lana who prefer sticks to poems.

He can be found on Twitter at @CulshawPoetry and his website, gculshaw.co.uk

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