Room 612


The day the old surgeon
learnt the second opinion,
he drove home, carefully,
and packed a bag.

It was difficult saying goodbye
to his cats, Stitch and Scalpel,
and the Russian Reds ripening 
in the vegetable garden.

And when he rang to say—
Thanks for everything, Renée,
the answer phone message
said, politely, she was away.

Room 612 had a glorious view.

He kicked off his shoes,
checked the hotel fridge,
ate the crisps and the Toblerone
and caught the 6 o’clock news.

The price of gold had gone down.

The cost of war had gone up. 

He toasted his useful life
with a miniature whiskey,
and took a last, lingering look
out over the busy city. 

The sun was setting.

Orange fire roared 
in the windowpanes. 

Lazy pink clouds
drifted past planes,
birds and cranes. 

He thought of Renée—
How could she be away?
and a secret mole,
hidden up high inside 
her pale left thigh.

Then he cut a neat incision
in his side and slipped out
of his thin, wrinkled skin. 

He spread his hide on the bed
and sorted his brittle bones
into bundles on the top. 

Some were tinier than toothpicks. 

He stowed his kidneys,
liver and lungs in the icebox.

He wrapped his reliable heart,
(the most important part),
in his dressing gown
and tucked it under a pillow.

He draped his toupee
over a lamp, where it flopped 
like a small, damp dog.

In the bathroom, he poked 
his teeth into the soap,
hoping to scare the maid. 

He looped his intestines
around the shower-rail
and, reverently, rested
his fine old brain
over the outlet drain. 

Until all that remained
were his ears, which he left
outside on the balcony
to listen for the siren. 


Louise Wrightson is a writer and bookseller living in Wellington. Her company, New Zealand Books Abroad, promotes and sells New Zealand publications overseas.