In A & E there are people who can save your life
but not enough pillows
and the curtains around the cubicle have bruised stripes,
and a girl, high on something, or low,
is kicking a door and screaming Give me my bag!
but they won’t because they think it has a knife in it
and her friend is effin’ and jeffin’
and the police have been called
and a voice booms, again, Can anybody hear me?
On the Observation Ward a bag of salt water
drips patiently into my veins and I wonder
When I wake up, will I be a mermaid?
and the cubicle curtains are decorated with septic blocks
and the doctor asks questions and Irene tries to answer.
What year it is, what job she used to have.
Irene thinks she is doing quite well.
She hasn’t heard of the Second World War.
What a lot of questions, she says. Are you self-employed?
When it’s time, Rod the tired staff nurse
takes both my hands and walks with me
to the anaesthetist, who says yes,
if I think happy thoughts I will have happy dreams
and I go to a place where the ferns are green green
and the mosses are lit with water drops
and the sun rains down through the trees
like cool kisses.
I wake up, smiling.
In Surgical Assessment one of the nurses is crying
and on the curtains there are rectangles
with rounded corners, like bacteria, or old plasters,
and the lady opposite would like some water
but there are no jugs left, and in the night Mary is sick,
and the nurse sits with her and talks so gently
and Ally, who’s had cancer and all sorts,
massages her sore right heel
because after two days on the same ward
they’re considerably more than family.
‘Weekend’ won 2nd prize in the Open Category of the 2014 Hippocrates Prize and was originally published in Michael Hulse and Donald Singers, eds., The Hippocrates Prize 2014 (London, 2014).