The NHS

A year and a half ago a poem of mine was included in an anthology, Poems for the NHS, edited by Matt Barnard and published by The Onslaught Press. Unfortunately, the press’s website seems to be out of action, but copies can still be obtained through online booksellers – but please don’t use those tax-dodgers Amazon.

Despite 10 years of cuts, the NHS is still the best, because its people are the best. That’s the spirit I tried to capture in my poem.

ON MUYBRIDGE WARD

As ever, Dad has his eyelids clamped shut.
I’ve never seen him so stubbly & rough.
‘Would you like a shave, Michael?’ asks Millie,
the auxiliary. He opens one eye
& closes it. She takes that as a yes,
or not a no anyway; assembles,
in a jiffy, all the requisite kit.
Millie & I behold an ample squirt
of shaving-foam ballooning on her palm.
‘It’s like a yummy great spoonful of cream,’
says Millie. We chuckle. Gently, with grace,
she lathers Dad into Father Christmas.
He flinches as if it’s murder. She chides
him, ‘A handsome man like you, Michael, needs
to look his best with us lovely people
around you.’ She dips the disposable
razor in a bowl of tepid water.
Her tongue-tip protrudes from the corner
of her mouth. She reminds herself to go
with the grain. Dad’s calm, unfurrowed brow
brings a bodhisattva look to his face.
Millie works with a zeal becoming haste.
At the dimple I inherited, then
handed down, in turn, to my three children,
she brakes. ‘This bit’s so tricky—how on earth
do you manage it?’ I’m not quite sure if
she’s asking Dad or me. ‘Pain in the butt,’
I mutter. Millie begins to towel-pat
his mustard-yellow cheeks. Dad resists: ‘Clear off!
Gertcha!’ Millie & I can’t help but laugh.
‘Well now, Michael, you look gorgeous!’ she cries.
For the briefest time, Dad opens both eyes.

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