Poetry | ‘The Ghosts at the Infirmary’ (10 poems) by Goirick Brahmachari | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)

The ghosts at the infirmary | Goirick Brahmachari


A snake of fire eats
My insides. A frame in flames
It grows as I breathe in,
It flows as I exhale.
Persistent, insolent,
A stream of condensed lava.
A thousand stabs, cuts
Burns the hour.
The front is back
The back is fore
No ashes in this burn
No smoke
No tear can now undone
This ubiquitousness.

But when it chooses to move
An epileptic dance begins
Like water, vapour, water
Everything changes, everything
Remains the same.

<Smoke Signals>

Barricades of torture
And mad mad suffering
Waiting at the iron gates of dusk
To settle all scores
Of superfluous precision
Hideous hallucinations of savage extractions.
At first, the senses strip and plummet
Then, the organs orchestrate a ferocious rampage.
Whatever is taught is truth.
Whatever is uttered becomes gospel.
Every, everything else
Is forbidden.
Seizures resuscitate
This interruption called life.
This unconscious world
Won’t wake up tonight.
The arteries and the fiber tracts
Are melting fast. First,
The body
Then, it will hit the cerebrum.

<immunisation island>

And all the nub’s excreta
Choke inside me.
This stagnant air, a malady’s curse.
Indifference helps the torment
Subside, tubes and pipes, stuck.
Let’s end this punctured conversation tonight.

They have sent for the experts
With flashlights
And glasses, the skin of the world is taut
They have sent for the army
To the battlefields
And they march in black masks through my nerves
All the way into my tortured gut.

Every drop of my blood is now marred.
Every drop of my tears, stone.
Nothing, but nothing remains
To be trespassed.
All that was classified has been compromised.
The hollowness within
Echoes the aftermath.
The stonewalls are intact,
But the veins and
The tissues have dried.

<marooned by memory>

The water takes it all.
And little by little
They erode, like organs
That give up when the time
Choses itself, clocks
Breakdown, nerves tremor,
Reality is a perennial psychosis
We live with. We treat
Ourselves to our worst selves; seek
Strangers and their lies,
We effortlessly buy.
We harvest life-
Long diseases, bleed, and lose consciousness,
To ease our misery.
We transform the agony of the mind
Into chronic physical suffering.
We save each other from each other
Every passing day. We inject poison
To fight poison created by the adulterated filth
That we generate through our very own existence.
Every steel artery now blocked.
Every blood that oozes out clots.
Every acquaintance estranged.
Every conscious attempt at warmth, tortured.
Every breath, ridiculed.
Hate mails saved as draft, intimate letters never delivered.
Waterless living, deep sea sedation,
Lack of bloodstream, disappearing conversations —

A fading white line.

<A disease for a disease>

Sitting inside the glass chambers
They dream of genocides. The decree
Of the king is forever final.
The judges and the saviours
Will be hanged at the twilight.
The vicious ghosts of the writers
Must be invariably accoladed.
Their vices are carefully collected
Into separate potion vials.

Distilled drops of death
Drip into my colourless veins.
This addictive craving
For self-harm is self-explanatory.
My bare body for ages bounded by infectious, covetous
Constant human hammering, episodes
Of mass mental murder and cerebral loss, nasty hankerings.
Someone raise the seventh wall right now!
Liquids of all colours ooze out
Along with sharp beeps at different frequencies.
Filth is now the new elixir.

And all the subjects of the damned land
Have already paid their taxes and their tongues.
Silence has always been the only consensus.
Rage manifests itself into myriad essence
Of pain: sometimes familiar, sometimes insane.

Conformation traded for a last chance
At a choked existence.
Conversion, a morphine painkiller.
X-rays have given up and denied to scan
The end of this earth’s sanity.
And yet, they await
For an answer.


A room of sonic beeps
White frequencies
Sheets move slowly
To the haze of the drowsy
Afternoon fan. A room
Full of faces across the stretcher
looking into you, the insides of you-
Eyes, mouth, desiccated lips
Taste, tastelessness,
Out of body waves, spirit,
Multilayered borders,
Dream like. After-presence
Of a cold menthol rill
Through your nostrils,
Lungs and forehead.


Comes and goes, comes
And goes. This wait
Till it grows. The relief
Is in the detail.
The exactness, the chosen
Diction, the touch,
Affected areas, twist
And turns, the changing
Colours of skin and life.
The waves in your eyes.
The abducted sleep
A fatal ransom- the burning,
The shooting and the stabbing
Under the ribs. The sand drips,
The time pricks, radiates
Onto the back and bones.
The sheets becomes the body.
The precise tenderness
Of the abdomen, bloated
Blood vessels, the still
Dead river, the lonesome
Shivers, cold synthetic
Breath, suffocated
Post visions,
A corpse covered in white,
Death and Déjà vu.


Soak me
In a glass of water,
Keep it aside. Collect
My rambling senses. Inject
A few drops of spleen
Into my veins. It’s been a long long time.
My tissues long for some swelter.

Bites, moves
And turns; hides
Stabs and burns,
A constant warfare within.
Every dot in each of my nerves
Has been sacrificed.
No medicine to clean
This clouds in my mind’s realm.
No IV fluids can drench
My contaminated bloodstream.

Hydrate me
With your ugliness
And your daily dose
Of Inflammatory skin.

A biological response to
A dystopian dream.
Dead cells and vessels
Mediate between scholars
Of molecular war. The inflammation
Prefers chemical weapons.
Masses rejoice the end of calm.

Pain is peace.
Let the torture begin.


Nocturnal senses
Clutter and crawl,
Another sedative futility.
Hypnagogic insects
Inspect, the night is wide
Awake. Ghosts of visceral
Memory swallow strange
Crepuscular monochromes.

A cloud between:
Pain dependence and
Pain related dependence.
Paralysed by an extraordinary sear
Of dipsomania-
A tormented earth.
Lies and delusions,
Treacherous neoplasm
And condescending slime
Once shoved into my skull
Now slowly drains out
(Measured every hour)
Through an NG tube.

An endoscopic light
Shines, the dead tissues
Must die. Let us go back.
Switch off the lights.

Hunt the meanings of
(Schizophrenic conversations, shape
of letters, inverted numbers, unrelated
casual coincidences, news
channels and social media, collusion
among complete strangers,
convinced conspiracies)


Organised and orchestrated
Injected into the nerves
A cerebral coup
Of cybernetic organisms
Through cryptic coding,
Algorithms, scripts and cracks.
Metallic tracts and tissues, now
Bugged into the nervous
System. Compromised.

A calculated overdosage
Periodically administered
To covertly induce
A chronic vascular infection:
Literati Sepsis
Now slowly drips in,
Cascades into vitals.

Cultic vows, spells and spectres
Secret societies, hypnosis.
Eerie erudite rituals:

Amass the microbes
Examine their pedigree
Assign a guiding light
Let the procedure begin
Homogenise, homogenise
Hypnotise, galvanise
Implant an obsequious
Answering machine.
All signals are now intercepted.

Obscurity, the only passcode
Speculative virtual reality
Every word uttered or written
Artificial, self-conceited,
Intelligence, erotically gratified
By one’s own reflection
And by the members of
The Narcissus cliques.

The consciousness first.
Peel every inch of
Originality and expression
Then, the heaving carcass
Must be discarded and left
Alone to rot
Or, eaten by
The carnivores night

To the stringent
Syntax of spurious
Dictums, diction and vaccines
Plagiarised encounters
And illegitimate trespass.

“Intruders will be abrogated
It’s all classified.
“Banish the defectors, ffs!

The X-Rays, identities,
Mutilated. Scratched imaging.
End of examination.
Yet they multiply
Like cancer cells
Proxies and VPNs
Shady botmets and phishing trap
Doors, hallucinations and paranoia
Of reading the written word online.
Pictures talk, multiple profiles
Appear, the bloated abdomen
Starts to withdraw.
The pain remains familiar.

It is not a coincidence then
Your memory continues to encircle
My mind like an apparition, departing
From your own crafted consciousness
And your musings about how expiry dates arrive.
I sit on my bed, stuck between cannulas and tubes,
Count the aching nocturnal hours
Through the moving white sheets and curtains
When the night grows old, the louder grows
The whimpers of those who pray or await to die.

Search, search for a corner.
Rest your head on the wall.
Away from the roaring news channels
To the seven horizontal, cloned
Profile pictures, snippets of political
Punditry, culinary recipes, self-help
Trollers’ paradise. Just when
The cyber prodigies come alive
On a mid-autumn afternoon,
The attack strikes!


Goirick Brahmachari’s debut collection of poems, For the Love of Pork (Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark) won the Muse India – Satish Verma Young Writer Award (Poetry) 2016. He is also the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, 2016. Other collections of verses by Brahmachari include joining the dots, 2016, Wet Radio and Other Poems, 2017 and A Broken Exit, 2019. He is currently working on a collaborative volume of verses titled ‘The Nightwalkers’ along with Debarshi Mitra. His poems and essays have appeared in various journals, magazines, blogs and pamphlets.


A note on poetry of illness:

The body is the universe. Whitman celebrated the human body and its association with the soul, and stressed on a unique universal unity to form an orderly whole. While Whitman describes a harmony through stark images of physical anatomy and sexuality in poems like ‘Song of Myself’ and ‘I sing the Body Electric’ which also encompasses his views regarding the universe, and transmits his idea of the universe into his celebration of the human body. Yet, amid this celebration he acknowledges,

“O Death! the voyage of Death!

The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing a few moments, for reasons;

Myself, discharging my excrementitious body, to be burn’d, or render’d to

powder, or

buried…” (Poem of Joys, Walt Whitman)

In this set of poems, I radiate between physical pain of pancreatitis and mental psychosis, taking a cue from the idea of a body as a universe that has infected by a viral pandemic and plagues of other kinds like politics, war, diplomacy, fallacy and treachery; not to mention mistrust, jealously, conspiracy and deceit. I attempt to manifest these physical pain and mental insecurities through a catharsis of sorts where I try to detail the exact nature of my physical trauma or the psychosis/ hallucinations, the return of abstract memories/images and incoherent dreamscapes. In many ways, the act of writing them helped me to distract myself from the suffering. I spent some alone time pondering about the interrelation between addiction, mental and physical health and poetry and tried to relief my mental suffering through physical pain.

Poets for ages have worked on chronic illness and aliment. John Keats’ famous tubercular metaphors used in ‘To Autumn’ is one of those early poems written about sickness. (Nayar,2020)

A conversation between death and life is initiated in Tomas Hardy’s ‘The Subalterns’

–“Come hither, Son,” I heard Death say;

     “I did not will a grave

Should end thy pilgrimage to-day,

     But I, too, am a slave!”


We smiled upon each other then,

     And life to me had less

Of that fell look it wore ere when

     They owned their passiveness.


And the lesson we learn from Edger Allan Poe’s ‘For Annie” as he pens the fever called “living”


The moaning and groaning,

The sighing and sobbing,

Are quieted now,

With that horrible throbbing

At heart: – ah, that horrible,

Horrible throbbing!


The sickness- the nausea-

The pitiless pain-

Have ceased, with the fever

That maddened my brain-

With the fever called “Living”

That burned in my brain.

Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Visits to St. Elizabeths’ records the continual tormenting feeling that one faces while visiting a mental health institution, where everything including the patient and the surroundings remains the same.


These are the years and the walls of the ward,

the winds and clouds of the sea of board

sailed by the sailor

wearing the watch

that tells the time

of the cranky man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

In ‘On Being Ill’, Virginia Woolf ponders ”…why illness has not taken its place with love, battle and jealousy among prime themes of literature.”- barring a few exceptions. “Novels, one would have thought, would be devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia, lyrics to toothaches”

“…how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels”

Sylvia Plath offers a precise description of a chronic sickness in ‘Fever 103°’, a revulsion that I myself have felt very closely during my bedridden days.

Darling, all night

I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.

The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.


Three days. Three nights.

Lemon water, chicken

Water, water make me retch.

As can be observed from this short survey of poems, poetry on illness has been well documented. However, the central theme across these set of my poems deals with the mental turbulence that searches for an escape route through self-afflicted pain (through addictions and gratifications) which leads to severe physical illness and dependence on pain medication and mental health treatment. Not to mention, the indissoluble circular nature and mutual dependence among each other that I have tried to document here. 

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