(C) The Prisoner of Pilatus
We had journeyed from Firenze; we were in frenzy too.
For I had almost lost the battle, succumbing to the ’flu.
Our European adventure reached a climax in Lucerne.
There were still some awkward lessons that I was yet to learn.
A cold wind blew across the lake, our launch, buffeted, and tossed.
But we were not in danger for Pilatus gazed across.
The mighty mount - Pilatus, regardless, of the season
Stood ominously; its snow-capped peak defiant of all reason.
The meal arranged that evening, though billed ‘die wunderbare’,
Was disappointing tourist fare; a band played oom pah pah.
The fondue was predictable, insipid was the wine.
Performers clad in lederhosen contrived to undermine
What was left of my propriety, whilst blowing alpenhorn.
My blood awash with CO2, my brain began to scorn,
“I find no bliss in all things Swiss, it’s hell here in Helvetia”!
We repaired to our hotel room but sleep was lost in apnoea.
So in a state of somnolence, next morning in a valley,
I gazed at mountains all askance expecting soon to rally.
The horses dragged our carriage back to where our charming hosts
Served cakes, and coffee laced with schnapps, and cheese fresh from their goats.
Pilatus lured but I demurred, I grasped the last of sanity.
Its altitude discouraged me, I sheltered my anatomy.
Alone my partner took the ride by gondola to the summit.
Whilst in the hotel room I tried to curb impending plummet...
Into darkness, my laboured breath was probably lung failure.
Would I ever see my family, friends, once more in far Australia?
My friend’s time on Pilatus was exhilarating, frightening.
In delirium I strayed on Pilatus too, repentant and … expiring.
There is a legend: Pontius Pilate was buried on the slopes,
Of that icy mountain above Lucerne, at peace, one can but hope.
And speculate if Pontius, had been conscious, of the furore
His abandonment of Jesus Christ had caused eons before.
To mollify rising discontent among Jerusalem’s clergy
Was Pilate’s aim; his lasting shame was to leave behind an effigy:
A man nailed cruelly to a cross. He caved in to the masses.
He’d said, "I find in him no fault at all"; and washed his hands, alas...
That brings me to my predicament that played out in Lucerne,
Pilate the pirate took my breath away, suddenly, it was my turn.
Der Doktor in the city clinic looked grave and said, “You must,
Be taken to ze ‘ospidal, first pay my bill”! They rushed…
An ambulance to collect me, and deflect to Kantonsspital.
Now I’ll admit to guilt of hubris, yes, pride goes before a fall!
With oxygen forced into my lungs; secured fast to a gurney,
Firmly tied, but not crucified, for that ominous last journey,
I thought about my life thus far and the ones I love the most.
Sixtieth birthday passed in Belfast, before long to pass the ghost?
Terrified, I heard and felt a pulse within my head,
I wailed aloud, “Where are you Wendy”? “I am here my dear”, she said.
My arm was punctured like an addict’s with catheters inserted.
Intensive care swung into action; surgery narrowly averted
Because, an embolism suspected, then rejected as cause of panic,
Was proved at last not to exist; I would not sink like the ‘Titanic’.
Too much carbon, the harbinger of doom ~ the surgeon declared:
“Ve must re-train your brain, mein Herr, your breathing is impaired”.
Thus, much the same as a car’s engine, by an engineer, is tweaked.
An air machine controlled my sleep, at night, when danger peaks.
My grey matter was induced to batter my lungs around the clock.
From the fourteenth floor of the hospital ward, I gazed upon the rock
That bears the name – Pilatus, whilst the status of my respiratory
Condition, was closely monitored by an unusual intermediary.
A Celtic cross, a crucifix was fastened to the wall.
Spiritual thoughts assailed me, an avowed agnostic after all!
The vision that I experienced that first night of intensive care,
Saw me sailing through the cosmos, golden stars were everywhere.
Chemically induced no doubt, upon awakening I shouted: “Where,
Have we been … to see the Queen”? “Of course”! A nurse declared.
They were amused; I was confused, to have woken from the dead.
The golden stars were simply shards of light above the bed.
‘The Lord moves in mysterious ways’; a time honoured cliché.
But Nietzsche said that "God is dead", moral values are decayed.
Others had faith and prayed for Christ to look on me with favour.
Indeed it’s true, I do, share initials with the one that some call saviour.
The days passed by while nurses tried to converse as best they could.
Some spoke awfully good English that I barely understood.
Said an elderly lady patient, “I speak no English”, leaning on a crutch,
Paused to converse with me, I replied, “nicht sprechen sie Deutsch”!
We both laughed; I pondered on this strange verbal anomaly.
Neither spoke the other’s language yet we communicated intelligibly.
I wandered through the pleasant gardens of the Kantonsspital.
Whilst my poor wife, in trouble and strife, with bureaucracy did battle.
Though physically and spiritually my life returned to normal,
There were pressing matters secular; a barrier to our formal
Departure, now enraptured with life in lucid, calm Lucerne.
We struggled with Australian banks for funds for our return.
Swans on the lake, in hundreds make, a Tchaikovsky dreamlike ballet.
‘Cross Pontius’ pond we gazed beyond the mountains and the valleys,
To negotiate reluctant escape we resorted to verbal excreta
Yet, the very air seemed clean, pristine, serene... heaven in Helvetia.
When at last, most troubles past, we journeyed to Zurich by train.
To catch a flight To London and board another Oz bound plane.
The path through Zurich airport was a game of snakes and ladders,
Bewildering directions and petty objections to things that scarcely matter!
The flight was uneventful, yet further heartburn at Heathrow;
More red tape to circumnavigate, until at last – we were free to go.
The tears flowed freely from us, flight attendants were concerned;
Oblivious to their safety lecture should the plane have crashed and burned.
We made it home, no plans to roam though we have no crystal ball.
We contemplate our souvenirs, odd fears and tears recall
My strange near-death experience and I’ll tell you this for gratis:
I’d rather be a sinner free than a prisoner of Pilatus.