My grey dressing gown hangs on a peg
in the bathroom, with its imprint of me.
I bought it in M&S for the hospital,
plain and decent with big pockets
for tampons, knickers on the way to the loo.
I didn't anticipate its many uses
or how much I'd come to hate the thing
when I got home with its accumulation
of hospital knowledge, the change
from homeliness and perfume, to institutional
liquid soap, so chemical, and the cleaning
fluids used on tiled floors and walls,
shower implements, handrails, bathroom grips.
My gown seemed to soak up
all those and hangs now like the awkward
shape I used to be in those spotlit corridors
when I crept from my room in the vapid nights
like a truant, not wanting to be caught.
I could dispose of it, after all it's been a year,
but I can't loosen the fear:
it might be needed for another stay
behind locked doors and blinded windows.
Julie-ann Rowell’s fourth poetry collection, Exposure, was published in 2019 by Turas Press, Dublin. Her first pamphlet Convergence (Brodie Press) won a Poetry Book Society Award. Her collection Letters North was nominated for the Michael Murphy Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in Britain and Ireland in 2011.