A book by Maggie Dubris
A book by Maggie Dubris
For 24 years, I was a 911 paramedic at St. Clare’s, a small hospital in Hell’s Kitchen. I worked during the dawn of AIDS, the influx of crack, and the most violent years the city has experienced. My hospital had the highest percentage of homeless patients in the city in the 1980s. In 1985 we established the first AIDS unit on the east coast.
Broke-Down Palace is the story of the city as seen through the lens of one poor, unsupervised institution. It begins in 1934 with the founding of the hospital by a penniless Irish nun in the depths of the Great Depression, and follows the course of its existence until 2007, when it was shut down, flipped a few times, and turned into luxury condos.
The book is structured as a series of linked poems; a memory palace. In addition to exploring the story of the hospital, I am interested in what happens to memories. What becomes a part of history, and what doesn't? If I took part in historical events, e.g. the AIDS plague, the attack on the World Trade Center, can I turn the historical narrative into one that actually reflects my experiences?
Maggie Dubris is the author of In The Dust Zone (Centre-Ville Books 2010), Skels (Soft Skull, 2004) and Weep Not, My Wanton (Black Sparrow Press, 2002). BrokeDown Palace is her newest work. Here's an excerpt:
St. Clare's is the only hospital I know of
where it’s normal for the patients
to be physically brawling with the staff.
One summer evening I count six people
flying backwards through the double doors,
their clothes flying after them to land
in a messy pile on the sidewalk.
They roll to their feet cursing and spitting
as Scat, the bricklike security guard,
leans against the wall under the awning
streetlight glinting from his black sunglasses.
I’m mopping out the the back of the ambulance with a sheet
blinking my eyes against the stench of rubbing alcohol.
A drunken man weeps on the curb,
slowly pulling on his pants. Michael the Aide
walks by on his way back from a coffee run.
"Don't cry, Sir," he says, "Better men than you
have gotten dressed out in front of St. Clare’s."
Thursday, November 3, 6:30pm sharp! I'll be reading with Adrian Sangeorzan in the Prose Pros reading series at Sidewalk Cafe, 6th Street and Avenue A, New York City.
Here's a video of a reading I did for the Sparkle Street Social and Athletic Club series at the Howl Gallery in New York City. The series is hosted by Mike DiCapite and Ted Baron. I come on midway through the video, and read for twenty minutes.
I was recently interviewed for the Sholem's Bias Podcast by author/physician Zachary Sholem Berger. I talk about the book, read a poem from it, and talk about working 911 in the 1980s and 90s.
This will be a rotating series of images from my days on the ambulance at St. Clare's.