for U.A. Fanthorpe


A Busby-Berkeley stunner: thirty-second sequence
of curtains swished back one after one all down the ward.
I’m standing near my bed, a raw recruit, screened off
and hushed.

Then trundlings and swivellings
on polished boards, quickly in and quickly out,
and final curtains scraped back one by one.

‘Behind you! Through the window!’ next-bed said.

There in the open a metal box on wheels
and grinning porters rattling one of us away.

On the Mend

Allowed up. A second day
of clattering the tea urn round
to beds with lungs that squelch,
arteries like fog-crazed motorways;
who scream their lumbar puncturings;
beds spiked with catheters and drips;
whose rawness keeps us all awake.

Word’s gone ahead. I was the ‘last
to speak to him’ – cursed yesterday
gazing hopefully into something shrivelled
that vaguely shook its head.


At the end of a careless fortnight
they come for me, bringing shoes;
repossess my tapes and books, a still
uneaten orange. Angina in the next bed
writes an address in case I want to buy
his car.

Bristling with advice –
throw away the frying-pan, cut out
the Weed, don’t get your leg over
immediately –

outside, I bite
the granny smith of autumn air
and stiffen myself to meet the dog.

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