Ward 35: Oncology

Posted: August 3, 2016 in Poetry

For Auntie Jenny

the room is like an airport
departure lounge
except we’re all dreading
what comes next
I guess a few might anticipate
the spreading of wings
but my faith crash-landed
in the Bermuda Triangle
two and a half decades back
some people have brought snacks
some stare through the TV screen
portal to a dimension where
none of this is happening
our group is trying to laugh
along with the people trying to joke
most of whom wear dressing gowns
the feisty eighty-two-year-old
whose treatment has her
spewing out innuendoes
the old guy with the worried wife
an empty space and a bag for life
to take home instead of a bladder
the long-haired guy with leg tattoos
hooked up to an IV drip
that buzzes like a text message
every four seconds
the temperature is too muggy
so we’ve opened two windows
onto the discovery that
the maternity ward is right below
and the irony of new life
being forced into the world
screams and grunts in pain
the feisty lady has to strain
to hear Emmerdale over it
my auntie’s sister has six kids
and yells down ‘go on, girl, PUSH!’
she tells us ‘it’s like having a big shit’
then takes her seat again
I wince at Emmerdale’s storyline
inappropriate non-distraction
the doctor was fooling around
with a young lass
so the guy got a fake all-clear
but really he has testicular                                          C- word
‘the OTHER C-word’
cackles the eighty-two-year-old
‘although cancer IS a cunt!’
and then covers her mouth
first time her face has shown
anything but mischief
‘sorry again
about your aunt’
the fish tank in the corner
is so vibrant with life
it hurts our eyes
those little guys make breathing
and motion look easy
hours pass
in this room and one other
and soon it is time
to say goodbye
it now resembles more
an airport entrance
since some of us get to wave
walk out
and go home
and the remainder have to face
their scary journeys alone
dressing gowns
instead of suitcases



Employee of the Century

Posted: June 1, 2016 in Poetry
he. does not.
precious. resources.
time. in the. staffroom.
consuming. sandwiches.
time. panicking.
how to. cover. up.
errors. does not. make. errors.
follows. the programme.
initiative. zero.
sick days. zero.
holidays. zero.
demands for. increase.
of pay. zero.
complaints. zero.
dedication. affirmed.
rate of. output.
is. standardised.
interpersonal. relations.                  doubtful.



Poetry Prompt: What Nobody Knows

Posted: May 31, 2016 in Poetry
Garage block
what nobody knew
except the kids
was round the back
of the garage block
existed another world
an assault                          course
on the imagination
we called it
The Adventure
new arrivals
on the estate
were put to the test
how willing?
how fast?
how nervous?
could they hurdle
paving slab gravestone
jutting from the ground
like a single fang
would the stained mattress
have to break their fall
shifting floor
littered with
restless stones
beer cans
discarded packaging
did the overgrown gate lead
would they dare
to scale
its rusted heights
would they believe
the shed snakeskin
was a shed snakeskin
(none of us were sure)
and run faster
just in case
(none of us went
Adventuring at night
just in case)
behind the garage block
was shaded dark enough
on sunlit days
to ignore the gardens
lining the other side
belonging to people
who lived in houses
they could afford to own
another world
beyond our world

Guest Speaker

Posted: May 23, 2016 in Poetry
People talk in abstractions,
PowerPointed modes of thought.
What is The Guardian looking after,
Do I have a responsibility to protect it too?
Puppies chase their own discursive tales
While the elders smile tolerance, bemused;
Throw them a ball, hoping they’ll catch on.
Stomachs rumble, tongues wag, nobody’s listening.
When did you last write a poem about Iraq?
Who’s tidying up the aftermath?
Rhetoric. Questions.
Answers elude us between the lines.
Fetch the Tip-ex, tie us up in red tape,
Cut the ribbon, cut the cord to the parachute.
What’s this, trailing? Apron strings?
Oh no, another question
Lobbed like a grenade.
Duck and dodge and lose the will to live.
Some war zones appear deceptively civil.


Step In

Posted: April 26, 2016 in Poetry
normally I cannot tell
my two keys apart
in the dark, but this drug-fuzzed morning
Front Door gleams like silver
like something worth having
like one step away from the warmth of walls
four walls and a ceiling and a door
that lets you shut out all the judgement
– I mean, all the people –
a nest you didn’t even have to build
with your own two paws
yet here you are, stumbling inside
like you own the place
barely able to stand
on your own two legs


Scumball Machine

Posted: April 18, 2016 in Poetry
silver handed down
crosses palms
put money in
force a twist-
-ed turn
of events
instant output

the masses
look different
but their tears taste pretty much
the same

To the Hospital

Posted: April 12, 2016 in Poetry


this bus journey
is both too long
and not long enough
for you
are alive and well
for only as long
as I stay in my seat
my brain can be deceived
but the eyes cannot
and the waver in my
(healthy          fucking            throat)
as I enunciate
‘Oncology Ward?’
suggests that even the brain
is catching on
to the upsetting truth
preparing for what we’ll find
but there is no being fully prepared
only the desperate scramble
for re-wind
for Undo
for STOP
this is the slowest race against time
the bus journey
is both too long
and not long enough