by Gillian Swain
After photos of Ward 14 Calan Park Asylum, taken by Geoff Forrester, 2020
I think I see them sometimes people I knew there if I manage to recognise faces they’re gone too late like the way things happen memory blisters it was cold in that room the walls the bed didn’t make sense I was supposed to feel safe was meant to want to sink in to the mattress it was hard the sheets too straight as tight across me as the straps smelt of ammonia the needle stung as wasps would only meaner sleep and drown I’m under it a glass blanket they say your body flicks they think you don’t see yourself curl sinew shriek synapse Niagara the lines arc then splay to nothing they hope landing makes a neater map past is a lie they turn down the dials the drip has something floatier I ache like peeling paint
Snap was my response to seeing a collection of photos of the old Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, Rozelle, NSW. The fifty-plus pictures were taken by Geoff Forrester, a chilling and graphic pictorial essay of the now derelict asylum buildings with a sad and disturbing history. I make no claim to understand anything of the experiences patients must have had there, the pictures caused a visceral response. A few of the pictures are here.
Gillian Swain spent her childhood exploring the waterfront of Lake Macquarie, mainly around Warners Bay and Speers Point.
Gillian has a poetry collection “My Skin its own Sky” (Flying Islands Press 2019) and shared first place with Magdalena Ball in the MacLean’s Booksellers Award (Grieve Project 2019). She was the curator of all things poetry for the Indie Writers Festival ‘IF Maitland’ in February 2020.
Gillian lives in East Maitland with her husband and their four children, two dogs, and a few fish in the pond out the back.