Hospital and health 2012 onwards

In the depths of a hospital night,
I thought I might give up the fight.
My sleep had been shattered,
My body'd been battered.
Wouldn't someone just turn out my light?

I look around the ward,
Wonder why they’re there.
Obesity, alcohol, smoking,
General self-harm.
I wonder how doctors cope
With this strange slice of humanity
And wonder if I’m that different.

Caught in a web
He lies, tube-connected, trapped,
Dreams of escape, his car, a fag,
Tries to rise, not knowing
He'd fall, tubes ripped out.
The nurses stop him,
Persuade him back
Until the next time.

Old soldier
He dozes, tosses, turns,
Wakes with bluest curses,
Calls the nurses.
“Put cream on, my back burns.”

Just up from emergency,
Chest aching, barely breathing,
Still I call, “What’s up?”
“Jaundice, old age.”

I smile, “I got there quickly.
How old are you?”
“Ninety one.” I can’t resist,
“Where did you serve?”

“Boy soldier, joined at fifteen.”
“Where?” I insist, but he can’t hear.
Deafness or pain.
I want to know.

Soon they wheel me
to another ward.
I call out “Good luck!”
He’s nil by mouth.

Charmouth - waiting
I leave the doctor’s surgery,
Begin the thankful stroll down hill,
Better than the breathless ascent,
Which I now find less stressful.

On each side, there’s a bus stop,
With a group of widowed grey heads,
Lamenting late arrival
Of a slow, rare service.

“Yesterday it didn’t show,”
Says a northern voice.
I see misery in faces,
As cold bites their bones.

Their’s is a freedom lost
By countryside retirement
Into eventless isolation,
With family far-off.

I won’t repeat their error.

Potato man
Round bald head, sad mouth,
Complaining of cold, constantly calling for tea,
Winding up the whole ward.
Oxygen in the nose, panting through the mouth,
Dog-like, at the ward’s end,
Praying through his heaving lungs.

Sixty years of smoking suffocates him.
I suspend distaste, start to chat.
It’s not all his fault. At fifty,
Driven into a tractor by a mate
Who escaped injury - he smashed his pelvis,
Beginning thirty years of hospitalisation.

He tells me of being young,
Of an eleven year old guarding Germans,
While the Home Guard went drinking,
Of white Yank soldiers stabbing black ones
Who strayed into their pubs.
Of Coronation Day’s thirty pints of scrumpy.

He married into a London family,
When his sister in law got an MBE,
He sat three yards from the Queen.
He says, “She’s still a virgin,
Saving herself for Jesus.”
His wife died of lung cancer, smoked all her life.

But now he’s going home, just his niece nearby
Her lungs smoke-damaged too,
Back, lonely, to his oxygen machine, to myriad pills,
Fighting addiction, barely walking, can’t get to church
I touch his shoulder, wish him well.
Not long to go.

Head banger
Brain tumour suspected, he lies
Exhausted, barely moving,
Surfacing occasionally,
To tell me of his thousands of records,
Three hundred pop concerts,
A qualified head banger, he says,
Missing the irony.

Food freak
It wouldn’t chew, so he swallowed it whole
And it got seriously stuck in his gullet.
Fat, tattooed, high blood pressure, a drinker,
They brought him in, fished it out,
And he proudly tells the tale of a previously
Inhaled peanut that triggered pneumonia.
He says to me as he leaves, “Behave yourself.”
I reply, “You too!”

No genius gene this
that burdens my body with an
idiotic immune system that
when illness infests,
assaults soft tissues too,
numbing nerves and
leaving lungs vulnerable.

Cortisone controlled,
with erithromycin
to do the bugs in,
the so-called rescue pack.

Winter's common colds
a cause for crisis,
a catarrhish tickle, then
a cloying, mucousy cough.

Like a coiled snake,
where will it make
its next strike?