for Dominic O’Hooley
First on scene, emergency services
score you six and leave without me.
I tail the silence of blue lights,
abandon the car in the ambulance bay.
Trauma team score your four:
pupils not yet fixed. Aggressively cared for
to limit risk of cardiac arrest—
your young organs ready to harvest.
I want to seal my mouth to your dented skull,
suck shape into cranial plates,
ask about the day we lay naked under leaves
tasting the age of rain. Placed bets on when
the lone apple would fall from the winter-bound tree.
You already knew and kept it from me.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2021. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor for 2021 was Hugh McMillan.
In the house of poetry nothing endures that is not written with blood said Neruda. To prove this axiom here is Morag Anderson’s poem Coma Scale. It’s a moving and powerful poem, simple chilling statements of fact preparing the way for a final verse which is beautiful but devastating. An example of how poetry can convey with forensic magic the wonders and horrors of being human. Reading it over and over increases your emotional burden, and your admiration for the writer and person. And what a final line.
The Glasgow Coma Scale is a neurological assessment of brain activity following severe head injury, measuring the response to defined stimuli. First described in Glasgow’s Neurosurgical Unit in 1974, it is now used in over 80 countries as the common ‘language’ to communicate the severity of injury and forecast outcomes. The scale ranges from 15 – 3. A GCS of 3 means you are dead. A GCS of 4 means you’re not viable for life, but you may be resuscitated to keep organs vital for donation. This poem is dedicated to a friend, Dominic O’Hooley, who was involved in a horrific road traffic accident and his GCS scores were kept under close surveillance. Poetry contains truths, half-truths, and mistruths. Dominic and I have never lain naked together. Dominic is very much alive.