Driving home from hospital after the hottest day of the year
John Challis

Something in us yearns for time alone in the night to think upon our great and lonely stages where the storie of our lives repeat, that frame our disappearances, these worlds where we are not ourselves but versions of the ones we left as, vacantly in transit through departure lounges, motorways and waiting rooms and terminals, places where we watch ourselves move comfortably in sharper suits with smaller, smarter luggage, or indicate from petrol station forecourts in smoother more successful cars with bodywork like silver muscle, or slumped on a minicab’s rain-slathered window, shirking off the future having seen it all by scrolling through the births and deaths and marriages, or told within the tapestry of foam scum in a pint glass. Your fantasy is waiting in the queue to pass security, a canteen in the Welcome Break, beneath the platform clock, or on the ward where now some magic doctor plies her trade to bring back from the brink your love who’s giving birth to love. In such quarters we are held by open time that may go on though never can—the wheels touch down, the junction floats up into view, and someone offstage calls your name. Midnight arrives. The ward ejects the recent fathers who walk the drowsy corridors while workers polish floors to mirrors, past the night’s wounded, the road’s bruised casualties in the custody of officers. They start again their sleeping cars, their sober undertakings waiting to be picked up by a different, less impatient man, when home becomes the destination once again. They may shed a tear in passing for their ancient selve shambling from the closing pubs in pouring rain that also staged a time-out to reflect upon its purpose while the country bathed itself in sun, as something soft and comforting escapes the radio and the whole night begins to be as perfect as an advert that knows that time can be distracted but never ended. They keep their vehicles steady now all traffic seems too close and all time too long to pass alone.

Born in London in 1984, John Challis is the author of the pamphlet, The Black Cab (Poetry Salzburg, 2017), a 2019 New Writing North Read Regional title, and the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Northern Writers’ Award. His poems have appeared on BBC Radio 4, in Clinic, Magma, The North, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Rialto, Stand, and elsewhere. John holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, where he currently works as a Research Associate. His first full collection, The Resurrectionists will be published by Bloodaxe in 2021.

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