Three Hospital Fragments



Hospital Fragment Number One


Dear NHS, you are driving your users mad with this constant bleeping. And the lights, Jesus, how can we sleep beneath this canopy of UV? I have headphones, and at least the radio is free. Could you please play a request for Sleepless of Spring Bank, trapped in his electric blue cocoon with a clamp on his leg. Please play anything by Snorey Norey and The Throat Rattlers.

I know my name and date of birth off by heart.

The school dinners are magnificent, jugs of lukewarm water and a lofty view of distant ribboned roads that pelt with traffic even at 2am. Children of the night. Soft rock anthems filling cars. God, I hope I never become a heroin addict. What hard work that must be.

That clumsy youth who banged my wheelchair in the X-ray room …

I wonder if I could stay awake for the full twelve weeks?

I bet the sunrise looks good through that full-length window. I wonder how many times I’d have to launch myself until the glass shattered and I was falling through the air, grabbing at damp night sky, framed in a halo of tiny diamonds.

It is taking all my effort of will not to royally kick off in here.

Try to transcend petty fury and discomfort though, and arrive at calm detached tranquillity, rise to meet it, bound in white and blue sheets and entombed in trailing wires under a blazing black electric sun. Peter S told me not to use imagery like that, shards of light, I don’t like that, he said. He’s right, of course, a shard of light is a lazy crutch to lean on, some weak fumbling for a vague sense of mystic grandeur. This is why people pay good money …

I can hear a very old woman crying out in pain somewhere to the left. It looks strange, writing it down like that, using those words. Crying out in pain.

The only light in here is electricity and lack of light, lack of clarity.

I refuse to take drugs to make me go to sleep.

I am curious to hear what 3am sounds like in this box of propped up life.

I wish that cunt in the bed opposite would get some headphones.



Hospital Fragment Number Two


It is very easy to trick the brain. A nurse told me a trick – if your leg itches beneath the cast, scratch the other leg on the corresponding spot and, miraculously, it works. Your brain is fooled by this very simple move. I asked if it was OK to slide a knitting needle down there to scratch, but this was met with a mock-horror, no no no! Risk of infection. But what about risk of insanity? Harder to treat or cure. Bigger drain on the system. One of the other nurses has laryngitis, she sounds like a hollowed out toy.

Choice of three different pies for dinner. I’m gonna have to watch it in here, I’ll be going out in a wheelbarrow. Anyway, the days in here are great, a man comes round with a trolley full of newspapers and chocolates; another lady wheels a tea tray around, someone asks you your name and date of birth every twenty minutes or so, probably to remind you of your continued mortality.

Time fairly gallops.

Later on, another nurse is going to show me how to inject blood-thinning drugs into my stomach. This is a new and delightful development. Hopefully I will overcome my distaste of needles in time to get a raging smack habit to ease me through my seventies, just bang up and drift off into the arms of Jesus or Jah or Buddha, whoever will step forward first to catch the body.

This nurse, she says that her hairdresser won’t let her have her hair cut short. This is what she tells me.

I’m struggling to take this on board, I’m tired …


Hospital Fragment Number Three


Jesus and the flamingo and the lights of the city outside again.

I found a Book of Gideon in the bedside drawer. Spent most of the evening reading Bukowski On Writing, some of it interesting, some of it not. Why am I being kept in here? Blood clots?

I can hear whispering in the corridor – your daughter just rung … I can’t put the lights out just yet, I’m afraid … yes, I will do soon …

If they catch me with my illicit plug I’ll be for the chop. Pats testing requirement they said, but there’s wires hanging from every bed. The tremulous wail of the elderly and hurting. A cup of tea? Do you have sugar in your tea? This is the national medicine, Britain’s lifeblood. How about a Horlicks? Don’t tell that fella anything, he’ll write it all down and use it against you later.

I am keeping myself awake to watch a football match I have no interest in. When will I learnt to focus my energies on things that really matter? Can you feel me touching that?

Hajha came with a big bag of fruit, tons of it, enough vitamin C to rid an orphanage of scurvy. Apples and pears and oranges and bananas and blueberries and grapes.

I keep thinking about Niall. There was a passage in that Gideon Bible in Welsh =- well, in all the languages, but it was the Welsh that stuck in my eye – the bit about God so loving the world he gave it his only son. The clock swivels its hands to cover its eyes.

Verb – to glorify.

A row of children clapping their hands. Delighted children watching cartoons, kids with no Mams or Dads Louise told me about the people smugglers and the syrup they gave the children. She stood on the beach at Kos and welcomed the children into Europe.

On my TV, the news reporter holds the microphone up to the little girl.

Would you like any painkillers? Do you need any help? Sit up, I’ll do your pillows. A mug of hot chocolate. The simple things in life.

Louise said to be a poet you had to be an active witness in the world.

A future to believe in.

Pretty flamingo. Tucked my toothbrush into my waistband.

The sound of vomiting and running feet. Oh, it’s brown. I feel guilty for … I feel awful now.


To glorify – extol.

She is 87 years old.

I just heard the nurse say.