In Hospital

Poem by Julie Steiner

1.   Audio-Kinetic Sculpture
It’s—simply put—intoxicating. Tots
press noses to the glass, and sometimes tongues,
the better to perceive its hums and gongs.
Orbiting its case like astronauts,
the big kids track its rolling balls from heights
to depths and back, through gates and chutes and springs
and pendulums, through plops and chimes and twangs.
It mesmerizes. It inebriates.

And that is why I come. My kid’s upstairs,
connected to an ominous device
that's metronomic and monotonous.
I’m not ashamed to spend some quarter-hours
drunk on this idealized universe
where nothing leaves the rails but joyful noise.

2.   Entry Fountain
Some haywire instinct makes me want to yell,
Hey, kids! That’s dangerous! Come down from there!
I know it’s pointless. Still, I itch to tell
their parents to control them. Don’t they care?

Where are these children’s parents, anyway?
And why do all the other passersby
ignore the happy hooligans at play
atop the fountain? Falling from that high—

it’s slippery!—could snap those scrawny necks.
A pediatric nurse strolls past and yawns.
Doctors and assorted scrub-clad techs
are unconcerned. The frolickers are bronze.

Hey, splashing statues! Hey, you reckless art!
My child might die. Don’t roughhouse with my heart.

3.    Topiary Outside the ER
EMERGENCY: This sculpture is alive.
The subject is a mother and her child—
cartoon giraffes. A beastly bush. So wild,
it’s obvious the gardeners must skive
it often, or the thing will shift its shape
to something far less cute and kid-appealing.
Such frequent trims reveal what they’re concealing:
chaos’s constant struggle to escape.

I don’t have time for haircuts anymore.
My boundaries were more distinct before
my ailing daughter’s needs grew never-ending.

I watch this pair of figures slowly blending
into an amorphous greenstone chunk.
An inkblot test in chlorophyll. I flunk